Medical trials exclude gay patients

    Gay and lesbian patients are frequently left out of medical experiments.That’s the conclusion reached by a team of Fox Chase Cancer Center researchers who surveyed several hundred clinical trials.

    A small team of researchers in Philadelphia reports that it appears gay and lesbian patients are frequently excluded from medical experiments, for no good reason. [audio:100317kgtrials.mp3]

    Clinical trials for experimental treatments often exclude people based on age and medical history. That helps researchers better analyze the effect of a new drug. A trio of scientists at Fox Chase Cancer Center surveyed a small number of studies, and found that sexual behavior was also a means for rejection.

    The small survey of erectile dysfunction clinical trials revealed that fifteen percent of the trials explicitly excluded gays. Brian Egleston says he’s concerned that some patients are missing out on participating in clinical studies for no good reason other than standard protocol.

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    Egleston: Gay and lesbian patients are not having the same access to the resources that their heterosexual counterparts are. And this is particularly problematic because the patients might not even realize that they’re being excluded from these trials.

    Eglston suspects the exclusion is not deliberate, but that trial designers simply copy and paste language that others have used before.

    Eglston: Because this is so common within certain types of institutions as well…we really fear that this is happening that people are now starting to use the language without thinking about what they’re doing.

    Ron Powers is the Director of Programs at the Mazzoni Center, a Philadelphia health clinic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients, also referred to as LGBT. Powers says he wasn’t alarmed that people were excluded based on sexual behavior.

    Powers: Rather than looking at whether LGBT individuals and their behaviors may exclude them or include them in specific general trials, I think it’s important that there’s more research looking at specific health disparities within our communities.

    Egleston and his colleagues are calling for a discussion about whether medical trials need to justify excluding gays and lesbians. They published their findings in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.

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