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In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with health education and wellness physician Dr. Ilan Shapiro, we discuss how to improve the inclusion of Latino participants and Latino leadership in clinical trials.

MD Newsline:

How do you think we can increase the recruitment and enrollment of Latinos in clinical trials to help improve health outcomes for the Latino community?

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Dr. Ilan Shapiro:

“The history, opportunities, and information surrounding clinical trials have long been in conflict with each other. Latinos have not played a large role in clinical trials until the COVID-19 pandemic. Latino scientists have not often led clinical trials either. And the Latino community needs to hear from other Latinos who have participated in clinical trials. Without improvement in these areas, the inclusion of Latino participants and Latino leadership in clinical trials is not going to advance.

Most importantly, we need to get this message across to the Latino community: ‘Yes, we have a lot of medications out there, but that doesn’t mean that they work for you. It doesn’t mean that they will be able to save your father or make a huge difference for your kids.’

We need to make sure Latinos understand that participation in a clinical trial is a personal choice. They have the opportunity to choose if they want to participate or not. And there are clinical trial regulations now to protect them.

I think a lot of the advancements that we’ve had with the COVID-19 vaccines so far were because more diverse communities were represented in the trials to help make sure the vaccine would be effective. What if a similar or better protocol were used to study treatments for conditions with a high prevalence in the Latino community, like diabetes and Alzheimer’s? That’s how we can make a difference through clinical trials for the Latino community.”

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Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.