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Why More African Americans are Needed in Clinical Trials

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Experimental drugs go through research phases called clinical trials before the Food and Drug Administration approves them for general use. Chances are slim, however, that those clinical trials included African American test subjects.

For reasons not fully understood, less than 10 percent of volunteers who participate in clinical trials are members of an ethnic minority, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparity. By volunteering for a clinical study, participants gain access to new therapies not yet available to the public. And drug companies are able to determine whether their medications work the same for everyone.

African American volunteers are especially crucial to improving health outcomes for black cancer patients, researchers said. “Racial and ethnic minorities — particularly African Americans — bear the greatest cancer burden in the United States, so they should be adequately represented in cancer research….Under-enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials may therefore contribute to preventable disparities in treatment outcomes and survival,” according to research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine .

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Participation in a clinical trial is always voluntary and helps future generations fight disease. If a clinical trial sounds interesting, a simple way to start is to ask your doctor. Here are a few things to consider:

-A clinical trial is research using people who volunteer to increase medical knowledge.
-Participants receive treatment according to a research plan. The treatment could be a medicine, device, procedure or a change in behavior.
-The purpose of the clinical trial is to determine the safety and effectiveness of treatment and health outcomes from using it.
-They may take place in a variety of locations, including hospitals, doctor’s offices, community clinics, or universities.
-Clinical trials are led by a lead investigator – typically a medical doctor – and the research team may include nurses, other doctors and social workers.
To learn more and find a study near you, visit