Clinical Trials and Medication Shortages
April 13, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic challenges our health care system and our society, we must ensure that already-marginalized groups are not further left out of critical conversations during this time. As pharmaceutical companies and researchers conduct clinical trials for COVID-19 treatment and vaccines, women of all ages and ethnicities must be taken into consideration and involved in this process.
Historically, women, particularly women of color and older women, have been left out of essential health care conversations. It was only in 1997 that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) required that women be included in clinical trials. Medical research has a long history of assuming treatments that are successful in populations of white males will work universally. But they don’t. Women of different ages and ethnicities have different health needs that can change the effectiveness of drug treatments in all situations, let alone COVID-19.
As the National Organization for Women (NOW), the oldest and largest feminist grassroots organization with hundreds of chapters in every state and the District of Columbia, we demand more for women.
- We call on the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that COVID-19 clinical testing is inclusive and diverse. Otherwise, it falls into historical patterns of marginalizing and excluding women from conversations that impact them greatly.
- We also urge the Senate to hold companies and others running clinical trials accountable – leaving women out of this research is unacceptable, especially given that they are at a higher risk of catching the virus and are disproportionately impacted.
- We urge the pharmaceutical industry to increase the production of hydroxychloroquine, a drug which The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has now reported there is a shortage of – following repeated urging from Trump to use it to treat coronavirus, without much evidence. This is needed to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases (especially important as 78 percent of people with auto-immune diseases are women).
- We urge both policymakers and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that people who rely on this sort of medication regularly are not left behind, especially when they are disproportionately women and women of color. Neither COVID-19 nor higher costs associated with shortages should make this medication inaccessible to those who need it.
- We demand that any future treatment or preventative treatment available for COVID-19 must be affordable and readily available to communities that are systemically denied adequate health care and medical services. Both trials and final treatment must be inclusive of diverse populations across the United States.
The pharmaceutical industry and the Senate have a responsibility to ensure that these women and those from diverse communities are not overlooked. Our lives depend on it.