COVID-19 clinical trials lack diversity, study says


This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. - NIAID/TNS/TNS

Although people of color have disproportionately been diagnosed with COVID-19, they are underrepresented in clinical trials, according to a study released by a team of researchers from the universities of Georgia, Colorado and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany.

In a federally-funded trial that is testing the efficacy of the antiviral remdesivir, Black Americans accounted for 20% of the total patient population, the researchers found. In the Gilead-funded clinical trial of the drug, about one out of every 10 patients given remdesivir were Black. Latinx and Native Americans comprised 23% of the former trial and less than 1% of the latter, the research team found.

People of color make up about 60% of COVID-19 cases and about 50% of deaths, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

“Why aren’t we putting up infrastructure for clinical trial sites in areas that were heavily hit by COVID?” said Daniel Chastain, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy at UGA’s Albany campus, who was the study’s lead author. “If we would’ve included Albany, those clinical trials would’ve been more diversified and would’ve been much more representative of what the coronavirus pandemic looks like in our area and throughout the U.S.”

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, follows complaints that many states, including Georgia, weren’t thoroughly documenting COVID-19 patients by race. Critics say such data is necessary to provide better treatment for the disease.


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