Five Senators request investigation into LGBT exclusion from Clinical Trials

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), along with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) today asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to investigate reports that gay and lesbians are being excluded from medical clinical trials.

A recent study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine found that gay and lesbian patients were barred from participating in clinical trials, many dealing with sexual function. The Senators’ letter asks Secretary Sebelius to determine if there is any proven medical rational behind this exclusionary practice.

“The New England Journal of Medicine is the gold standard for the medical community, and their study set off alarm bells. This is more than an equality issue. It raises huge questions about the quality of medical information from flawed trails,” said Senator Kerry. “I can’t think of a medical or scientific reason so many clinical trials would discriminate based on sexual orientation, and I’m confident that Secretary Sebelius will get to the bottom of this.”

“For years, women were excluded from participating in clinical trials of medical treatments. This meant that American women were not represented in medical research of diseases and treatments that were prevalent among both men and women,” said Senator Merkley. “Today, this trend continues with individuals being excluded on the basis of sexual orientation. This is just wrong – it undermines rigorous scientific testing and it is morally reprehensible. Medical research should not be biased. We need to get to the bottom of any possible effort to exclude Americans from clinical trials.”

“We must eliminate this kind of unconscionable discrimination,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This is not only an issue of equality and fairness, it is also about allowing scientists to use every appropriate tool to advance medical research and save lives. These trials could result in safer, more effective medicines for participating patients and the general public. I am also concerned that such restrictions could result in flawed medical information and inaccurate trial results.”

“Clinical trials not only help advance medical care and improve our health system, but they can mean the difference between life and death for individuals and families,” said Senator Menendez. “Discrimination is wrong in any context, but discrimination in clinical trials is particularly troubling because it limits an entire community’s access to medical care. Getting answers on this will help us make sure that these trials are open to every member of our society.”

“We are deeply disturbed by the findings of the New England Journal of Medicine study that excluding lesbians and gay men from clinical trials is ‘not uncommon,’ particularly because we still have so little data on health needs of the LGBT community,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “We applaud Senator Kerry for taking this important issue to Secretary Sebelius and urge HHS to investigate and ensure that this important part of medical research is conducted in a science-based, nondiscriminatory manner.”

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