clinical trial Diversity

Building Diversity In Clinical Trials

Clinical trials provide a critical base of evidence for evaluating the safety and efficacy of a medicine before it is approved for use in the broad patient population. Bristol-Myers Squibb is committed to including trial participants who are representative of the patients who will ultimately be treated with the medicine.

“We need to understand not only a medicine’s efficacy with specific populations, we also need to be aware of any behavioral characteristics and cultural and language barriers that could possibly impact that efficacy,” says Lori Abrams, head of Diversity & Patient Engagement for Bristol-Myers Squibb. “We know that certain minority populations are more likely to suffer from specific diseases and respond to medications differently.”

As part of the Clinical Development organization, the Diversity & Patient Engagement team was formed in 2012, to ensure that Bristol-Myers Squibb is creating clinical trials that reflect the needs of a broad patient population and include a diverse set of participants. To create this holistic approach to patient engagement, the team works with disease-specific and community organizations to bring awareness, accessibility and the voice of the patient to clinical trials.

Lori says the team is an example of the company’s focus on the patient and our commitment to diversity. “Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has been challenged by underrepresentation of diverse patients in clinical trials,” Lori says. “Bristol-Myers Squibb is unique in reaching out to and collaborating with advocacy organizations, physicians and community organizations to build broader and more diverse participation in trials.”

Patient diversity in clinical trials may be defined by a range of characteristics including age, race, ethnicity, gender, even geography.

The key to the team’s success is the collaborative approach it takes with external organizations. They establish long-term relationships to build an understanding of clinical trials. “It is important for our partners to have a high level of comfort before we reach out to their communities,” Lori says. “We take the time needed to build a true partnership based on trust and mutual respect.”

An example of the diversity effort’s success is an outreach program to raise awareness of clinical trial opportunities for young adults diagnosed with cancer. More than 72,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year in people aged 15 to 44 years, but only one percent of eligible young adult patients will participate in a clinical trial.

In partnership with an advocacy group, Bristol-Myers Squibb produced a series of videos in which young adults told their stories about having cancer and participating in clinical trials. These stories were shared through a social media outreach program.

“We’ve seen a real increase in online discussions among young people about cancer and being supportive of patients and caregivers,” Lori says.

Robert and Lyndell Gholston visited Bristol-Myers Squibb to share Robert's story of participating in a clinical trial for Hepatitis C treatments.

Robert and Lyndell Gholston visited Bristol-Myers Squibb to share Robert's story of participating in a clinical trial for Hepatitis C treatments.