Increasing Diversity in Clinical Trials

Eli Lilly and Company  | October 26, 2020

Every time you take a medicine – even if it’s over the counter – you are benefitting from the results of a clinical trial, a scientific study where researchers apply rigorous testing to ensure that medicine’s safety and effectiveness.

Many factors impact how someone will respond to a treatment, including their genetic background, ethnicity, gender and lifestyle. Because illness, including cancer, doesn’t discriminate, diverse participants in clinical trials are critical to developing safe and effective medicines for everyone.

Unfortunately, minority populations have been historically underrepresented in clinical trials.  Although minorities make up nearly 40% of the U.S. population, they constitute less than 20% of participants in the key clinical trials that lead to the approval of new medicines, according to a 2015 study.

At Lilly, we’ve been working for more than a decade to increase enrollment of racially and ethnically diverse U.S. clinical trials, including educating physicians and patients about the importance of diversity and partnering with other organizations committed to the same goal.

For example, because people are more likely to volunteer for a trial if the investigator speaks their native language or is familiar with their culture, Lilly has collaborated with external groups to recruit minority physicians as clinical trial investigators.

Efforts such as these are still in progress, but we’ve already seen an impact at our company. Among the most recent 12,000 U.S. patients Lilly has enrolled in clinical trials, 39% were minorities – roughly the same as among the U.S. population. Hispanics were 18% and African Americans were 11.5% of our clinical trial patients, compared with 18% and 13% in the U.S. population, respectively.

The overall numbers still leave gaps. Lilly signs up high percentages of minority patients in our diabetes clinical trials, since diabetes is more common among minorities. But we don’t do as well in oncology. There’s more that we and our peers can do, and we’re committed to working to make sure all people are represented.

At Lilly Oncology, greater diversity in clinical trials helps us to develop and deliver innovative medicines that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of all people living with cancer.