June 23, 2024

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Developing new medicines for everyone, everywhere, equally

2 min read

The development of new medicines is a major reason medical science added 20 years to global life expectancy in the past century. But the pharmaceutical industry’s role as healer is sorely diminished if we don’t develop medicines fairly for everyone who needs them, regardless of income, gender, race, geography, or ability.

Unless we bring medical innovations to everyone, everywhere, equally, we fail in a mission where failure is not an option.

Equity and diversity in clinical trials—the gateways to new medicines—benefit both patients and our business. We do the most good and generate better scientific insights by studying our medicines in populations representative of the people suffering from that disease. Accessing the totality of the patient pool lets us move medicines from trials to delivery faster.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken note. The FDA has published draft guidance, and recent legislation has been signed into law on improving diversity in clinical trials. As such, pharmaceutical companies will be required to submit diversity plans for late-stage trials to improve enrollment for underrepresented groups and enhance health equity.

Making clinical trials representative of actual patients

In 2020, Bristol Myers Squibb announced a five-year, $150 million program to address health disparities and improve clinical trial equity. We are seeing promising results.

Traditionally, most U.S. clinical trials take place in large teaching hospitals. To increase diversity, we used U.S. Census data to locate our research sites in highly diverse areas (places with highly diverse U.S. communities greater than 25%). Thanks to multiple efforts not limited to the work of community groups, local hospitals, and technology companies dedicated to health equity, as of October 2023, 62% of our active research sites are located in highly diverse communities.

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