How BMS is closing the diversity gap in clinical trials
Here are a few of the ways we’re expanding diversity in trials, as part of our broader efforts to ensure our entire clinical research ecosystem reflects the populations we serve.
Imagine yourself as the patient: if you’re facing a challenging or life-threatening disease, you’d likely want every option available to you.
Clinical trials can be an option for many, but for some, they can be difficult to access for a variety of reasons.
Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) is working hard to change that, and we’re gaining recognition as an industry leader in making clinical trials readily accessible to a broad range of patients around the world.
Why is diversity in clinical trials so important?
Medications have the potential to be more or less effective for different patient populations, and diverse clinical trials provide the opportunity to ensure drug efficacy for patients everywhere.
By developing research that includes a wide range of patients impacted by a particular disease, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender and where they live, among other characteristics, we help those in underserved communities and, ultimately, reduce health disparities worldwide.
At the same time, that diverse research can potentially provide insights leading to more effective and personalized therapies for everyone.
How is BMS expanding diversity in clinical trials?
Here are six ways in which we’re working to break down barriers to clinical trial participation:
Branching out: We’re finding and selecting research sites that are closer to underrepresented groups or located in more diverse areas. As of October 2023, 62% of our active research sites were located in highly diverse communities.
Inclusive by design: Clinical trials are designed to be inclusive, from languages offered to trial scheduling. In the United States, all adult participants can self-identify across a variety of patient demographics, including disease-specific eligibility criteria as well as characteristics such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status. This is an important first step to ensure that our clinical trials are inclusive and diverse across all patient populations.
Clear communication: It’s crucial that we are clear and effective in the way we communicate important messages to trial participants, so that we build trust in our research and demonstrate our commitment to them. We also collaborate closely with others in the industry, research institutions, and regulatory bodies to share best practices and develop industry-wide guidelines.
All about community: We work closely with members of the communities where trials are happening so we better understand the social determinants of health and what’s preventing patients from accessing a clinical trial. In the US, BMS is on track to have more than 25% of clinical investigators come from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Getting educated: Our employees and partners receive training and work together to better understand the different needs of the diverse patients BMS serves. For example, by partnering with Black Health Matters, we’ve doubled the number of Black men — who are 50% more likely than white men to develop prostate cancer — enrolled in BMS trials for this type of cancer.
Accountability: We hold ourselves accountable by keeping track of the progress we’ve made and the places still to go. These efforts were recognized in 2023 with BMS being named one of TIME’s 100 most influential companies — for inclusive drug research. The company also received a gold badge rating on the Bioethics International Scorecard, which included diversity and inclusion and clinical trial design integrity.
All of these line up with BMS’ broader commitments to global inclusion and diversity and health equity.
How are AI and other technologies playing a role?
Artificial intelligence (AI): BMS is exploring many ways to leverage AI technologies across all stages of the drug development process. For clinical trials, we’re using AI to integrate simulated data from underrepresented patient groups when data for those communities isn’t immediately available.
Digital platforms and telemedicine: Going digital has allowed remote participation in some clinical trials, making it easier for patients in more underrepresented regions to take part. For example, in certain clinical trials we’ve been able to use remote check-in for patients, streamlining the process and making it more convenient.
Social media: Advertising through social platforms helps to reach diverse patient groups — expanding the pool of potential participants in trials — so we’re exploring thoughtful and effective ways to use social media for clinical trial recruitment.
What about the rest of the patient experience?
Ultimately, we’re working to ensure the ecosystem around our trials — including research sites, principal investigators and extended care teams — reflects the diverse populations we serve.
Zooming out further, our strategy for more equitable care spans all aspects of the patient experience, from screening and early diagnosis to access to quality care and innovative medicines.
Read more about how we’re improving diversity and inclusion across the patient experience.
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About Bristol Myers Squibb
Bristol Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. As global citizens, we work sustainably and responsibly to create a positive impact in the communities where we live and work.