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Black patients are often left out of crucial cancer drug trials

In clinical trials for the majority of FDA-approved cancer drugs, fewer than 5 percent of the patients were black, Stat News and ProPublica reported Wednesday.

Out of the 31 cancer drugs approved since 2015, 24 of them have had single-digit proportions of black patients during trials, the analysis found. In one trial for a multiple myeloma treatment, just 1.8 percent of participants were black, even though black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed with the blood cancer and there may be "meaningful differences" in how the condition affects the two races.

The Food and Drug Administration has not established any rules that would require drug makers to test treatments on minority patients, and many manufacturers don't diversify their trials voluntarily, reports Stat News.

Drug companies often say it is challenging to enroll minorities, reports ProPublica. The clinical trials with the highest black participation, up to 12 percent, were from Johnson & Johnson, a company that uses an internal group to improve trial diversity. Advocates have called on the FDA to implement similar standards across the industry, but the agency has demurred.

Minorities are also often not properly incentivized or are not able to participate: Financial barriers, logistical challenges, and distrust of the medical community are all factors that sometimes discourage minorities from joining trials, even though they could be "life-extending opportunities," said Dr. Kashif Ali, research head at Maryland Oncology Hematology. Read more at Stat News.