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Racial disparities

Blacks Remain (Rightly) Wary of Medical Trials, Risk of Exploitation as Human Guinea Pigs

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: racial disparities, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) Concerns that doctors may knowingly expose them to harm or perform experiments on them without their consent may be a major factor accounting for low participation of U.S. blacks in clinical drug trials, according to a study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published in the journal Medicine.

"African American participants expressed markedly greater concerns about experiencing harm from participation in clinical trials and distrust toward medical researchers than white participants," the researchers said. "These factors, in turn, appear to explain much of the resistance among African American persons to participate in clinical trials compared to white persons."

Health researchers have long noted that in the United States, blacks volunteer for medical studies at a much lower rate than whites. This makes it hard for researchers to know knowing if the results of many tests, conducted only on whites, will generalize to people from other ethnic backgrounds.

In the current study, researchers attempted to recruit 717 people from 13 clinics across Maryland into a fake drug trial. One-third of the people were black, and two-thirds were white. All potential participants were questioned on the reasons for their decision to participate or not.

Consistent with the researchers' expectations, blacks were 40 percent less likely to decide to participate in the trial than whites were. When asked for their reasons, 58 percent of blacks cited a belief that doctors use drug studies to conduct experiments on people without their consent, while 25 percent cited a belief that their doctor would knowingly expose them to a potentially harmful drug without telling them.

These concerns were cited by only 25 and 15 percent of whites, respectively.

According to researcher Neil Powe, this mistrust among U.S. blacks may be related to the history of U.S. researchers conducting dangerous human experiments without consent. In one of the most well-known examples, government researchers in Tuskegee, AL allowed 400 black men with syphilis to go untreated for 40 years so that the course of the disease could be chronicled.

The men were never told that their disease was treatable.

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