Black History Month is an opportunity for all of us at Mallinckrodt to reflect on the value of diversity in both our culture and our scientific innovation. It is an especially meaningful occasion this year given the challenges of 2020, which highlighted the systemic injustice that persists due to institutional inequity in our country. As a patient-centric biopharmaceutical company, we must address the health disparities that result from this continuing inequity. The pandemic has underscored this harsh reality, as people of color, particularly African Americans, endure higher levels of illness and death than White Americans due to the COVID-19 virus.
Beyond the coronavirus, African Americans are disproportionately impacted by other painful and debilitating diseases, yet African Americans are underrepresented in clinical trials across the board, including those for Multiple Sclerosis, despite significantly faster disease progression for MS in black patients. While African Americans comprise 43% of prevalent systemic lupus erythematosus cases, they only represent 14% of randomized controlled trial enrollees. Understandably, there is still today some lingering distrust of the medical establishment in Black communities due to historic injustices such as the Tuskegee Study (a Public Health Service effort to record the natural progression of syphilis in African Americans, conducted without patients’ informed consent).
There are many other barriers to equitable trial participation among people of color. Patients may find study designs burdensome; they may not be informed of the trials or may have logistic issues or payment concerns. When we know better about these barriers, we can do better. Mallinckrodt has an important role to play with African American patients in terms of providing them important educational resources, fostering greater levels of trust to help close the healthcare disparities gap and fostering ongoing collaboration with communities, partners, government agencies, researchers, and others.
Our Scientific Diversity and Inclusion Council helps promote awareness of health disparities in our supported therapeutic areas (MS, Sarcoidosis, Lupus, Nephrotic Syndrome). We are also proactively seeking to engage African American recruitment and retention efforts for clinical trials by providing accessible, customizable educational materials – including web-based programming, publications, and other resources to help navigate health insurance.
The pursuit of equity and the chance for all of us to live out our own versions of the American dream tie closely to our Company’s core values of acting with integrity and being patient-centric, innovative and collaborative.
- By living our values, we can reduce health disparities for African Americans by helping enable access to therapies we offer that impact communities of color;
- By collaborating with one another, our and local organizations, we can create innovative solutions that make a real difference in our communities;
- And by seeking to understand and embrace the differences in one another’s experiences and cultural backgrounds, we can better serve our patient populations, not just in clinical trials, but throughout the drug development continuum for a more holistic and inclusive patient experience.
Achieving a more equitable society begins within our organization, where each of us can actively participate in fostering inclusion and diversity. I am hopeful our collective efforts will have a true impact on closing the healthcare disparities gap that exist in our society for people of color, particularly African Americans.
President and CEO, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals