By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 27, 2013
The state needs more minority participation in its clinical trials, according to local health care professionals, biopharmaceutical executives and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who all spoke today at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“Blacks are more likely than others to die from asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. ... However, blacks are less likely than others to participate in clinical trials testing therapies to treat these diseases,” said Marvella Ford, a public health sciences professor at MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center.
There is a critical need to increase clinical trial participation in racially and ethnically diverse populations to determine how the effects of drugs might differ, Ford said.
Clinical trials in the state have made significant impacts on the state’s economy and health, according to the “Research in Your Backyard” report released today by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
“Clinical trials provide an important message of hope for patients who seek new treatment for unmet medical needs,” said PhRMA Executive Vice President Chip Davis. “These trials advance medical knowledge, lead to better patient care and drive economic growth across South Carolina.”
Clyburn said biopharmaceutical companies, research institutions and hospitals need to continue outreach efforts to help minorities overcome their reluctance to participate in clinical trials. Transportation to trials, awareness of their existence and education about what they entail often are barriers to minority participation in clinical trials.
“Today’s report will hopefully raise awareness about the value of participating in clinical trials so more patients across South Carolina may share in the benefits and the hope these trials can provide,” Clyburn said.
South Carolina’s biopharmaceutical companies, clinical research centers, university medical schools and hospitals also continue to recruit participants and patients, specifically minorities, into clinical trials. Hollings Cancer Center and MUSC run outreach programs, such as MUSC’s online clinical trials database, where the public can research trials, and the center’s mobile health unit, which provides cancer screenings and education on clinical trials.
Their efforts are having an impact — 26% of Hollings Cancer Center’s clinical trial participants are black.
In addition to health benefits, the state’s biopharmaceutical industry supported more than 18,000 jobs in South Carolina in 2011, the PhRMA report said, with 4,800 employees working for the sector directly. The average salary for the sector is around $73,000.
The sector directly generated $2.4 billion in economic output in the state in 2011 and supported an additional $1.8 billion in products and services through its vendors and suppliers, the report said.
Of more than 3,200 clinical trials of new medicines that have taken place in South Carolina since 1999, nearly 1,700 have focused on the nation’s six most common chronic diseases: asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illnesses and stroke.
Currently, nearly 300 clinical trials in the state are focusing on those diseases.
“There’s a bank on every corner,” said Dr. Andrew Kraft, director of the cancer center. “We want a clinical trial on every corner.”
Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.