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The importance of diversity in clinical trials

Clinical trials don’t enroll enough black participants, even when they’re testing drugs for treatments that disproportionately affect African-Americans, according to a ProPublica analysis.

Why it matters: It’s not entirely clear why some diseases affect different populations differently, but those differences are an important part of understanding whether a particular treatment is safe and effective — exactly what clinical trials are supposed to test.

By the numbers: In most of the trials ProPublica surveyed, fewer than 5% of participants were black — compared with more than 13% of the U.S. population.

  • The results weren’t much better even for treatments that could disproportionately benefit black people, such as multiple myeloma and prostate cancer. These are more prevalent among African-Americans, yet black enrollment in trials for those drugs still often sat around 2% or 3%.

Go deeper: NIH launches massive program to diversify medical research.

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