A new report says 895 clinical trials for new drugs targeting a wide variety of diseases are underway in North Carolina. But the “Research in Your Backyard” report says greater diversity in races, ages, sex and sexual orientation are needed in order to improve the effectiveness of those trials and determining drug impact on specific patient populations. 

North Carolina is well known as a major hub for life science and biotech research – the third largest such cluster in the United States outside of California and Massachusetts. And the new report reuses statistics from an older study that documents the fact more than 200,000 jobs across the state are generated in part by the life science industry.

Life science services firms such as Quintiles (the world’s largest) and INC Research as well as PRA Health Sciences (both of which went public over the past week) have further strengthened North Carolina’s reputation and standing for those types of companies.

And these firms as well as numerous others rely on citizens of the Tar Heel state in trials to determine safety and efficacy of new products.

The most numerous trials currently underway are:

  • Cancer, 315
  • Neurological disorders, 70
  • Cardiovascular disease, 68
  • Infectious diseases, 64
  • Respiratory diseases, 56

But the report, issued during at event at Quintiles’ headquarters in Durham, said diversity is needed to improve the testing process.

The report notes:

  • A key challenge in today’s clinical research is generating adequate patient diversity that allows biopharmaceutical research companies to develop medicines that are effective for specific patient populations.
  • “Greater patient diversity in clinical trials is needed at a time when research shows us that biological differences can influence how people process the medicines they take. For example, genetic coding differences can make cancer treatments, antidepressants and blood pressure medications less effective in some races and ethnicities.
  • “There is an increased need for participation in clinical trials by patients of varied races, ethnicities, ages, gender and sexual
    orientation, including more Hispanics and African Americans.
  • “For example, Hispanics make up 16 percent of the U.S. population, but only 1 percent of all clinical trial volunteers; and Africans Americans are 12 percent of the population, but only 5 percent of clinical research participants.
  • “I’m In,” a program introduced by PhRMA and the National Minority Quality Forum in March 2014, is designed to accelerate participation of diverse populations in clinical trials. Increased diversity can help ensure the process used to test safety and effectiveness of potential new medicines accurately reflects the patients who will take the medications if they are approved.”

The report is from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA.