Austin, Texas-based SubjectWell reports it is working with pharmaceutical firms to enlist patients for a number of Phase II and Phase III COVID-19 trials. What’s more, the company reports of the 10,000 patients it is connecting to these trials each month, about 40% of them are Black, Latino or Native American.
Ivor Clarke, CEO of SubjectWell, told Outsourcing-Pharma that obtaining a diverse patient population is important in most trials, but it is particularly crucial with the virus.
“The coronavirus has disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minority communities, with COVID-19 infection rates among African Americans approximately five times that of Caucasians,” Clarke told us. “The industry has to consider the disease’s real-world impact as it races to develop a safe and effective vaccine to make sure it's safe and effective for truly everyone.”
The best way to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective for all patients, he added, is to make sure trials recruit a representative population.
“Lack of representation in clinical trials has been a consistent industry issue, with minorities making up fewer than 10% of trial participants on average. So as we witness how COVID-19 is impacting minority communities, it is the industry's responsibility to make some real changes,” he explained.
However, Clarke pointed out, patients from certain demographics may view trial participation less favorably than people from other backgrounds. SubjectWell recently completed a survey in partnership with the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation, revealing that a potential recruit’s attitudes toward trial participation tends to vary depending on race and gender.
“During the pandemic, African American patients reported more hesitations when considering participation in non-COVID-19 clinical trials and a greater desire for safety precautions if they were to participate compared to Caucasian patients,” Clarke explained. “Taking a closer look, 26% of African Americans responded that they are not at all likely to consider participation in a clinical trial for a medical condition other than COVID-19, as compared to 13% of Caucasians.”
“What this tells us is that sites and sponsors across the industry have to put precautions in place to ease patient hesitation, especially in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” he added.
By offering access to millions of potential patients, SubjectWell aims to help researchers dramatically accelerate last patient in (LPI), and address the lack of diversity in COVID-19 clinical research. Clarke commented that he is positive the current pandemic could contain a silver lining: improved representation in patient recruitment.
“This is hopefully a turning point for racial diversity in clinical research. By recognizing the altitudinal differences between racial groups, as an industry, we can use this once-in-a-lifetime event to address diversity in clinical trials through patient-centric improvements, helping build trust across racial minorities in clinical research and healthcare in general,” he said.