Clinical trials are critical in developing most new medicines, and so is making sure people involved in the trial are the right people, reflecting the ethnic diversity of the patient population. Unfortunately, studies in the US and UK have shown this diversity is not present in most clinical trials.

Why Is There a Lack of Diversity?

There are a number of reasons for this lack of diversity, including a lack of trust in the medical profession, an unwillingness amongst some minority groups to share information on their health with others, including their own doctors, religious beliefs, an understanding of how clinical trials work and their importance, and language barriers.

Those arranging trials, including adaptive phase 1 clinical studies, also hold some responsibility for the lack of diversity by not considering just how important it is when developing new medicines, which can work well with one ethnic group but not others. For example, in the US, African-Americans (12% of the population but only 5% of trial participants) are more likely to have asthma yet less likely to respond well to current asthma medication.

Why Is Diversity Important?

This highlights why companies such as must ensure there is ethnic diversity in clinical trials, especially as medications are, more and more, designed for specific genomes and some health issues, such as prostate cancer, are more common in some ethnic groups than others due to genetics or health disparities.

If adaptive phase 1 clinical studies do not include the widest possible pool of participants, it is unlikely medicines will meet people’s health needs and, in some cases, they may not be safe and have to be withdrawn from the market. This has been the case for medicines that were not tested on a high enough percentage of women, whose menstrual cycle can affect the effectiveness of medicine and who, studies have shown, can be twice as likely to react adversely to medication.

Increasing the number of ethnic groups and creating a gender balance in clinical trials, therefore, will help improve the outcomes of medicines brought to market, ensuring they are more likely to work effectively on the widest range of people taking them. It will also address the broader need for equality and diversity in all areas of life and reduce health disparities due to life circumstances.