Last year, 76 percent of clinical trial participants were white, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Latinos, African Americans and Asians have long been underrepresented in these trials.
The California Medical Association Foundation and its Network of Ethnic Physicians Organizations (NEPO) hope to change that through an initiative to educate them on the benefits of drug trials.
The foundation has distributed 350 posters to ethnic physician organizations and medical societies in California. The initiative also includes a public service announcement.
As part of the initiative, doctors in NEPO are having more conversations with their patients about the benefits of drug trials.
Dr. Margaret Juarez, chair of NEPO, says trials are not limited to terminal illnesses. A patient not responding well to their diabetes medication could be eligible.
"That could be an area of focus. Perhaps there are certain medications that work in certain populations. We won't know until we ask the question and until we get the patients involved in the study," she says.
Capital Public Radio previously reported that a lack of trust in the health care system is one reason why people of color may not try new treatments. Medical experiments like the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male and the U.S. government sterilization of 3,406 American Indian women without their permission between 1973 and 1976 are just a couple of examples.
Veronica Mijic, project coordinator with the California Medical Association Foundation, says doctors are an important link in getting more people of color into drug trials.
"When patients from these communities of color are recommended to participate in a clinical trial, about three quarters of them say they are interested in participating, but prior to them learning about that from their physician, only about a quarter of those populations are actually aware that clinical trials can be of help to them," Mijic says.
In 2016, 7 percent of African Americans and 11 percent of Asians participated in drug trials, according to the FDA. Mijic says about 1 percent of Latinos are involved in trials nationwide.
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