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Should diversity be mandatory in U.K Clinical Trials?

The clinical trial industry has always struggled with diverse recruitment within their trials.

One study by A. Stuart and E. Harrison found that only 5% of respondents from ethnic minority groups in the UK had ever participated in a Clinical Trial. In October 2020, of the 270,000 individuals recruited for the Covid-19 vaccine trials, only 7% were ethnic minorities. With these statistics in mind, it is clear that there are actions to be taken.

What is happening to increase diversity in Clinical Trials in the UK?

In November 2020, a panel discussion (Road to Equality, by COUCH Health) looked into the complexities and ideas to increase the recruitment of ethnic minorities into U.K Clinical Trials. The panel included leaders of health outcomes/research institutions in the United Kingdom (Digital, Science & Technology, Caribbean and African Health Network, BioPharma of Source Bioscience, COUCH Health and Demand Diversity, Egality Health, Innovative Trials).

To view the webinar in discussion, please follow the link to find out more:

What could be done to increase diversity in UK clinical trials?

  • Increase the awareness of the scale of the problem and highlight how treatments and products can be safely produced and offered across the population in the UK.

  • Perhaps the approach could be to introduce a threshold or mandatory level of participants from all of the targeted population. For this to be done on a local scale first, then implemented on a larger national scale.  

What would the implications be for the Pharmaceutical and Bioscience industry?

There were some concerns that imposing a threshold/ mandatory diversity policy would increase overall costs of the delivery of the clinical trials and potentially slow down the process. It was noted that the NHS could save money in the long run by ensuring that the right medicine can be offered to everyone if tested on a larger population representing a greater demographic. For example the cost of running a trial and then finding out down the line that the product is not suitable could be greatly decreased if a larger population of ethnic minorities were included in our UK Clinical Trials.

If diversity levels are achieved: data would be stronger, regulators would be happier,  the process to get a product to market would be quicker, and profits would increase (with stronger data to support the effectiveness of products across a larger population).

So overall, the webinar discussed that the mandatory policy if enforced or at least a threshold system being introduced, would bring a positive outlook for the pharmaceutical industry.  

While there are differing opinions, there are already clear opportunities to help achieve this — whether it’s improving data through digitalisation of clinical trials, or sharing best practices already happening in local areas. Progression in healthcare and increasing awareness is crucial in increasing the level of diversity within Clinical Trials in the United Kingdom to ensure our pharmaceutical products are inclusive for all. What are your thoughts, could more be done?

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