Program Seeks to Boost Minority Participation in Clinical Trials

ACR effort uses continuing education focused on lupus and meant for doctors

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by Mary Chapman |

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To help dermatologists and nephrologists understand the importance of minority participation in lupus clinical trials and why such participation is lacking, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) is announcing new continuing medical education (CME) offerings.

Specifically, the new CME provides the specialists with information about racial disparities in clinical trials, why more participation is needed, and the barriers that care providers encounter when encouraging such participation.

In general, CME consists of educational activities that aim to maintain, develop, or increase providers’ skills, knowledge, and professional performance. Clinical trials, which require volunteers to help determine whether a medication, procedure, or device is safe and effective, are at the heart of all medical advances.

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Lupus is usually managed by care teams that include dermatologists, nephrologists, rheumatologists, and other specialists. Dermatologists specialize in conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails, while nephrologists specialize in kidney care. Rheumatologists focus on disorders such as lupus that affect muscles, bones, ligaments, joints, and tendons.

“Skin and kidney symptoms are common in lupus patients and there are clinical trials specifically targeting these two organ systems,” Rosalind Ramsey-Goldman, MD and chair of the ACR’s collaborative initiatives committee, said in a press release.

Minority participation in trials

The disease disproportionally affects minorities, including African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, in both prevalence and disease severity, but their participation in clinical trials is scarce.

“In the United States, African American/Black patients represent approximately 43 percent of lupus cases, however, only 14 percent of lupus clinical trial participants are African American/Black,” said Starla H. Blanks, senior director of collaborative initiatives for the ACR.

African American/Black patients are also four times more likely to develop lupus nephritis, a serious complication characterized by kidney inflammation, “which can increase the mortality rate,” Blanks added.

The new CME training “addresses barriers like patient mistrust, lack of familiarity with trials, and an intimidating consent process” and emphasizes “facilitators like culturally sensitive communication and social support by emphasizing skills that provide support for both the provider and the patient,” Ramsey-Goldman said.

The new medical education offerings are part of ACR’s Materials to Increase Minority Involvement in Clinical Trials (MIMICT) initiative, which seeks to ensure certain care providers are aware of the importance of more minority participation in clinical trials. The initiative also creates collaborative opportunities for healthcare providers and clinical trial sites.

The ACR was able to expand MIMICT due to a two-year, $500,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health for the organization’s Training to Increase Minority Enrollment in Lupus Clinical Trials with Community Engagement (TIMELY) project.

Running through next September, TIMELY combines MIMICT and the ACR’s Community Health Worker Lupus Clinical Trials Training program to address both provider- and patient-reported barriers to minority participation in lupus clinical trials.

The American College of Rheumatology is a professional organization that seeks to advance the specialty field of rheumatology.