Black Americans Still Wary of Clinical Trials

  • 24 percent of black Americans reported that their doctors would not fully explain research participation to them, versus 13 percent of whites.
  • 72 percent of black Americans said doctors would use them as guinea pigs without their consent, versus 49 percent of whites.
  • 35 percent of black Americans said doctors would ask them to participate in research even if it could harm them, versus only 16 percent of whites.
  • 8 percent of black Americans more often believed they could less freely ask questions of doctors, compared with 2 percent of whites.
  • 58 percent of black Americans said doctors had previously experimented on them without consent, compared with 25 percent of whites.
  • When the element of distrust was removed from the equation, the proportions of blacks and whites willing to enroll equalized to about a third of those sampled in both racial groups.

    The good news is that there are ways to remedy the situations.

    "One is physician or researcher relationships and interactions, that physicians and researchers should be taking the time to talk to patients and communicate with them explaining the risk of being involved in medical research and dispelling myths about participating in research," Powe said. "It's hard to do in a busy medical environment today but necessary."

    Academic medical centers need also to build relationships that engender trust with the community, even including community members in designing research studies.

    Finally, Powe said, patients tend to trust physicians of the same race. "One big issue is that there are not enough minority physicians, so that's a societal remedy we all have to think about," Powe said.

    Some 12 percent of the U.S. population is black, but only 4 percent of physicians are black.

    More information

    The National Cancer Institute has more on minority participation (or lack thereof) in clinical trials.

    SOURCES: Neil R. Powe, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., professor, medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore; William E. Cunningham, M.D., professor, medicine and public health, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles; James Powell, M.D., principal investigator, Project Impact Program, National Medical Association; Jan. 14, 2008, Medicine

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