Historical background of clinical trials involving women and minorities

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Abstract

The author provides a historical context for the difficult ethical and clinical issues associated with the inclusion of women and members of minority groups in clinical research. He cites as a point of departure the Nuremberg Code of the late 1940s, which declared the fundamental dignity of human beings involved as research subjects, a principle that was quickly endorsed worldwide. From the period following World War II through the 1970s, the prevailing attitude–not always practiced–toward research subjects in the United States was that they should be protected from exploitation. That attitude was reflected in the first broad federal policy on research subjects, created in 1966. During those years, research was widely regarded by the public as dangerous and of little value to individual participants; it is remarkable that so many men and women consented to participate in clinical studies at that time. Furthermore, during the 1970s, for reasons explained by the author, various events–the abortion debate, disclosures from the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study, Nixon's “war on cancer,” new federal regulations in 1974 and 1975 (the latter providing additional protection for pregnant women in research), the broad interpretation of the FDA's 1977 policy excluding pregnant or potentially pregnant women from clinical trials, and the tendency of blacks and persons from other minority groups to shun participation in research–tended to deter participation of women and members of minority groups in clinical research. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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