NMQF-PhRMA-Microsoft Effort to Build Permanent Networks
“Some of the challenges really stem from how clinical trials are structured,” Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., president and CEO of NMQF, told GEN. “They’re really built around temporary networks that are created to recruit a specific number of patients into a specific trial. And when the trial is completed, the network comes down.”
Some biopharma companies have sought to address the issue through networks of minority doctors, usually engaged trial by trial, Dr. Puckrein said.
In 2007, AstraZeneca announced an outreach effort with two groups, one of them being the National Medical Association (NMA), which represents more than 50,000 African-American physicians. The NMA’s Project Increase Minority Participation and Awareness of Clinical Trials (IMPACT) maintains a database of African-American physicians committed to participate in clinical trials. (The other group, the Interamerican College of Physicians and Surgeons, which represented more than 39,000 Hispanic physicians, is defunct.)
Johnson & Johnson has reached out to the NMA and the National Hispanic Medical Association, which has more than 45,000 Hispanic physicians. Merck and Pfizer are among the biopharmas that have partnered with the NMQF.
What has been missing until now, Dr. Puckrein added, is a permanent network—a gap the NMQF and partners intend to address by creating the trial network. He said it will include registries of investigators and patients, plus community-level health statistics, to help investigators pinpoint minority populations that share a medical need and, when appropriate, facilitate their recruitment into clinical trials quickly and cost-efficiently.
“What we hope to be able to do at launch is to begin to make visible the number of investigators that are practicing in minority communities, who are available to clinical trials, as well as to encourage patients to volunteer for more trials. A lot of that is done around data, and making data accessible to the companies,” Dr. Puckrein said.
One potential point of confusion: The NMQF-PhRMA-Microsoft trial network, the National Clinical Trial Network, is distinct from the NCI’s broader trials improvement initiative, the National Clinical Trials Network. Not only do the two efforts have almost identical names, they also use the same acronym, NCTN. The NMQF-PhRMA-Microsoft trial network is focused on diversity. The NCI network is intended to streamline its array of support programs for cancer trials into a system that improves their design, innovation, speed, and efficiency. The NCI network follows a 2010 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report recommending that the NCI transform its clinical trials system, in part by broadening patient diversity.