Local African-Americans needed for clinical trials

From flu shots to antibiotics, the medication we rely on when we are sick has made its way to pharmacies because of successful clinical testing. But there is a grossly under-represented group participating in clinical trials.

Now, Imperial Medical Group in Lake Charles is urging African-Americans to get involved in clinical research trials with the potential of revolutionizing some medications.

Drs. Hezekiah Sobamowo and Richard Gilmore are part of the international REVEAL cholesterol study monitoring 30,000 patients.  "Unfortunately, a large number of those patients that are being recruited are being recruited from Asia and Northern Europe," said Dr. Gilmore, "and there are not enough demographics of the United States included."

The missing demographic: African-Americans.  "A medication that may work for one subgroup or demographic may vary racially," said Dr. Gilmore.

Access to care is one hurdle in recruiting African-American patients. Another goes back to the 1970s, when it was discovered in the Tuskegee Experiment that syphilis treatment was withheld from a group of African-American men.  "Their concerns, which I believe are mostly going to be safety," said Dr. Sobamowo, "are extremely our concerns too in this study."

The world of clinical research trial has since been revolutionized with safety and ethics codes. Still, enrollment for African-Americans lags behind.  "This is an opportunity for us to recruit African-Americans into this population to make sure that therapies work not just for Caucasians or Asians," said Dr. Gilmore, "but also for African-Americans."

Without proper representation across ethnic groups, it is tough for researchers to get definitive answers in clinical trials, like the REVEAL, on medication effectiveness.  "We want to make sure that this medication, as dramatic and potentially effective as it could be, works in all demographic groups," said Dr. Gilmore.

The REVEAL trial is now only open for African-Americans.  "We are looking for people who have had blocked leg arteries, people who have had strokes from blocked neck arteries or heart attacks or especially diabetics with known heart trouble," said Dr. Gilmore.

Participants will be followed for four-five years, given state-of-the-art care and get a placebo medication or the one expected to prevent blockages and raise good cholesterol.  "We've seen animal studies that show tremendous promise and results from this," said Dr. Sobamowo, "and we believe the benefit is really, really great."

If you are African-American and are willing to commit four to five years to participate in this trial, call DeAnne at Imperial Health: 337-312-8405. It is free to enroll and your travel expenses will be covered.

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