I speak a lot about how companies and society need to be more progressive in their approach to diversity – this is as true for clinical research as it is for everything else.
From shaping the design of a clinical trial to recruiting the right patients – all members of the public from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to be involved and engaged with research. This not only ensures that new medicines and treatments are developed with the patient in mind, but that the research findings are representative of society.
In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to address the under-representation of black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) groups in research, who have been disproportionately impacted by the disease.
In a study investigating the differences in engagement with medical research across ethnic groups, BAME groups were less likely to participate, with occupation, education, health, attitudes to medical science and belief all identified as contributing factors.
To improve the participation of BAME groups in research, as well as their broader involvement and engagement, we urgently need to rethink how we conduct research. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network’s INCLUDE project developed new guidance to facilitate best practice in the design, funding, approval and delivery of research for under-served groups.
Pharmaceutical companies are also playing their part, with TransCelerate Biopharma, a group of global biopharmaceutical companies establishing a clinical trial diversification initiative to enhance the racial and ethnic diversity of clinical trial populations.
Much more needs to be done on such a deep seated problem however, and it’s great to see that the ABPI, Association of Medical Research Charities and NIHR are hosting a series of events starting today on embedding patient involvement and engagement in research, including sessions on promoting inclusive opportunities.
There is no doubt that a key pillar of ethical research is delivering maximum benefit for all. By opening up research and being more inclusive, we can truly improve how we research and develop medicines and vaccines so that they better meet the needs of patients worldwide.
We are committed to collaborating with the health research sector, Government and patients and the public, to ensure we continue working towards that goal.