How we’re prioritizing diversity in clinical trials and why it’s so important

New team augments ongoing efforts to increase participation from underrepresented communities in clinical trials to improve health equity

December 14, 2022

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Different people may have different reactions to the same medicines and vaccines based on their age, gender, weight, race, ethnicity, geography or other factors. That’s why we’re committed to enrolling a diverse body of participants in our clinical trials. To help us do that, we’ve recently augmented our ongoing efforts by creating a new team dedicated to diversity & inclusion in clinical trials.

“We’re focused on how we can inform and encourage underrepresented communities to participate in clinical trials,” said Adrelia Allen, senior director, clinical trial diversity and lead of the new team. “It means we must expand and strengthen our community relationships to build trust and engagement.”

The newly expanded team strives to do just that.

Why is diversity in clinical trials so important?

Clinical trials are research studies designed to learn more about how our bodies respond to drugs or other treatments. When clinical trial volunteers are diverse, these studies can show if the treatments are safe and work well for people from all different communities. They also help researchers better understand patterns of difference in health and illness based on different backgrounds.

What is MSD doing to increase access and inclusion in clinical trials?

Over the last five years, we’ve worked to help historically underrepresented communities access our clinical trials. For example, we:

  • Implemented a new process that requires diversity plans (actionable steps) across all late-stage clinical trials.
  • Prioritized selection of U.S. sites in diverse communities by using census data.
  • Developed various partnerships with community organizations, colleges and universities, and professional organizations to expand outreach to people from different genders, races, ethnicities and sexual orientations.
  • Invested in training and tools for researchers, our teams, clinicians and others at clinical trial sites to address the need for broader clinical trial access.

Our approach is working. In 2022, approximately 50% of our clinical trial patients were from diverse backgrounds – both in the U.S. and globally.

But we need to do more. Our diversity & inclusion in clinical trials team is focused on increasing access to clinical trials in the U.S. and will expand those efforts globally.

Adrelia Allen

“With the bigger team and the support of many people across our company who are passionate about this work, we’re making important progress. We’ll also be able to drive new health innovations and help overcome serious health care challenges – for everyone.”