Eli Lilly steps up diversity efforts for clinical trials

INDIANAPOLIS: Pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company is strengthening its communications efforts for its clinical trial diversity strategy.

INDIANAPOLIS: Pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Company is strengthening its communications efforts for its clinical trial diversity strategy. The American Cancer Society reported earlier this year that only 17% of clinical trial participants are minorities.

The company released an observational study earlier this week reporting that minority participation increased by 43% after a number of enhancements were made to the process.

Nearly three years ago, Eli Lilly began pushing for increased enrollment of diverse populations in clinical trials, as well as to make the trials more accessible in minority communities, said Janice Chavers, director of diversity and HR communications at the pharmaceutical company.

"Most of our work has been very grassroots, working with journalist organizations to educate journalists on healthcare disparities, as well as the needs of diverse populations in clinical trials, and working with professionals at advocacy organizations,” she said.

Eli Lilly works with a number of outside PR firms, which Chavers declined to identify, to support its overall diversity strategy. The diversity effort is positioned throughout Lilly's corporate communications function.

The pharma company, along with partners in the healthcare industry, such as the National Medical Association, the Education Network to Advance Clinical Trials, and various multicultural medical organizations, recently rolled out a selection of new trial sites to include more than 50% minority patient populations. They also created a Latino toolkit with information on recruiting and supporting the initiative. Lilly has tweeted the efforts as part of its digital platform, called Lilly Pad.

"If you look at the Census, it reported that by 2050 the minority population will be the new majority," said Chavers. "We need medicines that treat different ethnic populations. Just because something works in a white man, doesn't necessarily mean that it'll work in a white woman or a black man. We all respond differently to medications, and that's why it is so important to get the word out."

The study also revealed the barriers that Lilly, and other pharma companies, continue to struggle with when diversifying the enrollment in trials, said Chavers.

"Sometimes it's just mistrust," she said. "People are fearful of doing it. Other times, it's the language barrier, or their doctors are not participating in clinical trials, which is why we reach out to educate various populations about the needs to participate in clinical trials."

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