“The time for pontification is over when it comes to improving diversity in the clinical trial population,” says Reginald Swift, PhD, founder and CEO of Rubix Life Sciences. “Underserved populations needed these therapies yesterday and the next generation requires us to step up,” he adds.
While he’s a big fan of diversifying the clinical trial workforce as one way to promote diversity, Swift warns industry must also find new ways to reach out to new, potential trial participants in traditionally underserved minority communities. “We need to widen the data net and do a better job of analyzing” those data to identify previously ignored patient populations, he notes, especially those without insurance, those who are homeless, or those living financially below the poverty line.
Swift calls on industry and regulators to develop programs to promote early-stage clinical research by providing funds and other support to empower these underserved patient populations. “In some cases, we need to provide food and housing programs” to help recruit and retain less affluent people, he says.
“We must design ways to expand the patient population and increase eligibility,” Swift adds. “It’s not just about finding ways to talk to the patients already in our database. Time and time again [we’ve seen how] that approach isn’t working [by itself].”
Industry has been too traditional in its thinking about how to truly promote patient diversity in the clinical trial population, he says. “We can’t assume technology alone” can significantly improve clinical trial patient diversity, he cautions. “We’ve been taking the least burdensome route, and it’s time to take steps in a new direction. Pharma has been more academic and less real world” in its approach, and that’s got to change, he adds.
Swift is a big advocate of getting as close to patient populations as possible. “We have to work with people on the ground,” he says.
Author: Michael Causey