Let’s Change History! Encourage Clinical Trial Participation

While it would be great if everything we learn from clinical research could be applied to everyone, in reality, cardiovascular disease and many other conditions are not the same across sexes, age groups and racial and ethnic groups, and neither are their responses to treatment.

Statistics show that women, along with racial and ethnic minorities, are more vulnerable to developing cardiovascular diseases and continue to lag behind when it comes to health outcomes. African Americans, for example, tend to have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and untreated high cholesterol. They also have the highest rates of heart disease. When compared with men, women are less likely to survive a first heart attack, and young women have the poorest outcomes after a heart attack. The list goes on.

So what’s behind these trends?  New clinical trial resources posted to CardioSmart highlight several factors that may contribute to the health disparities among sex and racial/ethnic groups, including the fact that few research studies are designed to look specifically at heart and vascular diseases in women, and among racial and ethnic minorities. Additionally, more than half of trials for coronary heart disease over a decade failed to enroll any patients over 75 years old.

Patient concerns also factor into these trends, including lack of trust in research studies and fear of unintended consequences. Cultural values and beliefs, as well as patient access to preventive care or specialty centers can also play a role. On the physician front, awareness about the different risks in patient populations is a major factor. Minority leadership is also an issue. For example, only one percent of all principal investigators supported by the National Institutes of Health are African American.

Clinical trials pave the way for new and better therapies for many – but not necessarily all. In recent years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has called for broader representation of people of different ages, races, ethnic groups and sex in clinical trials. As cardiovascular professionals, on the front lines with patients, we can help facilitate this effort. Not only can we help raise awareness among ourselves about disparities in care, we can talk with our patients about clinical trials as options for treatment. We also have opportunities to encourage the next generation of researchers to take on leadership roles.

Together we can improve care for everyone!

Talk to Your Patients About Clinical Trials

It’s important to talk with your patients about whether a clinical trial may be (or may become) a treatment option. Here are some questions to help guide your conversations with patients:

  • Is a clinical trial the right option given the medical history and prognosis?
  • How do they find a clinical trial that might benefit them?
  • How long will the study last?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the risks?
  • What are the costs?

Visit CardioSmart.org/ClinicalTrials for an overview of clinical trials to help patients understand what they are and how they work and resources for finding a clinical trial for their condition.

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Clinical Topics: Dyslipidemia, Prevention, Atherosclerotic Disease (CAD/PAD), Lipid Metabolism, Nonstatins, Hypertension

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, African Americans, Cholesterol, Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Ethnic Groups, Heart Diseases, Hypertension, Leadership, Minority Groups, Myocardial Infarction, National Institutes of Health (U.S.), Obesity, Research Personnel, United States Food and Drug Administration

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