CHARLESTON — Developing and testing new drugs in South Carolina pumps $4.2 billion a year into the state economy, according to a new report issued Tuesday by an industry trade group.
The report released by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, says that since 1999, there have been more than 3,200 clinical trials of new medicines in collaboration with research centers, university medical schools and hospitals across South Carolina.
Presently, there are nearly 300 active trials focusing on drugs developed to treat asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and stroke.
The report was released at the Medical University of South Carolina at an event attended by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and top clinical researchers. The event was held in a research building bearing Clyburn’s name.
“We want to educate South Carolinians about the importance of participating in clinical trials,” Clyburn said. “These trials provide hope for patients with chronic or critical illnesses.”
The report, “Research in Your Backyard” also found that that the biopharmaceutical industry supports 18,000 jobs in South Carolina.
Clyburn and other speakers stressed the importance of getting minorities into clinical trials so tests reflect the entire population. About a third of the state’s population is black.
Marvella Ford, a professor of public health sciences at the university’s Hollings Cancer Center, is working with minority leaders around the state to increase minority participation in clinical trials. Often minorities don’t participate, she said.
“There are many reasons why this is so. Lack of awareness of clinical trials and fear and mistrust of the institutions and investigators conducting clinical trials,” she said.
Blacks in South Carolina have the highest rate of kidney cancer in the nation and are second in the nation in mortality from stomach cancer, said Dr. Andrew Kraft, the director of the Hollings Cancer Center.
Nationally, while blacks represent 12 percent of the population, they represent only 5 percent of clinical trial participants. Hispanics represent 16 percent of the population but only 1 percent of clinical trial participants.
The trade group is working with the National Minority Quality Forum and Microsoft to encourage more minorities to participate in trials. The effort consists of data bases of patients willing to participate as well as investigators and clinical sites.
A database of clinical research trials underway in South Carolina is available at www.scresearch.org .