Participation of the elderly, women, and minorities in pivotal trials supporting 2011-2013 U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals

Trials. 2016 Apr 14;17:199. doi: 10.1186/s13063-016-1322-4.


Background: Pivotal trials, the clinical studies that inform U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval decisions, provide the foundational evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of novel therapeutics. We determined the representation of the elderly, women, and patients from racial and ethnic minorities in pivotal trials and whether the FDA is making subgroup efficacy analyses among these subpopulations available to the public.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of novel therapeutics approved by the FDA between 2011 and 2013. Using publicly available FDA documents, we collected information on the demographic characteristics of pivotal trial participants (age ≥65 years, sex [male, female], race [white, black, Asian, other], and ethnicity [Hispanic, non-Hispanic]) and determined the availability of subgroup analyses by age, sex, race, and ethnicity.

Results: We identified 86 novel therapeutic that were approved by the FDA between 2011 and 2013 for 92 indications on the basis of 206 pivotal trials. The median age of pivotal trial patients was 53.1 years (interquartile range 40.6-60.6), and the mean proportion of patients ≥65 years of age was 28.9 % (95 % CI 23.5-34.4 %). Similar proportions of pivotal trial participants were male (mean 50.3 %, 95 % CI 45.3-55.2 %) and female (mean 49.7 %, 95 % CI 44.7-54.7 %). Most participants were white (mean 79.2 %, 95 % CI 75.9-82.6 %), while the mean proportion of black patients was 7.4 % (95 % CI 5.5-9.3 %), that of Asian patients was 7.4 % (95 % CI 5.2-9.7 %), and that of patients of other races was 5.9 % (95 % CI 4.4-7.5 %). Information about ethnicity was available for only 59.8 % of indications, and where such data were available, the mean proportion of Hispanic participants was 13.3 % (95 % CI 10.3-16.3 %). FDA reviewers performed and made available subgroup efficacy analyses by age, sex, and race for at least one of the pivotal trials used as the basis of approval for over 80 % of indications.

Conclusions: Although women are equally represented in pivotal trials supporting recent novel therapeutic approvals by the FDA, elderly patients and those from racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented. FDA reviewers generally perform subgroup efficacy analyses by age, sex, and race and make these subgroup analyses available to the public.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Approval*
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration*