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Biopharmas must address the reality of racial disparities in health outcomes exposed by COVID-19

COVID-19 shows why biopharmas need to build racial equity into their drug development mindset

COVID-19 shows why biopharmas need to build racial equity into their drug development mindset.

Sep 8, 2020 | 11:04 PM GMT

This is the second article in BioCentury’s 28th Annual Back to School package. In the opening piece, BioCentury called on biopharma to convert its COVID response to a new era of efficient drug development and address the urgent healthcare chasms exposed by the crisis.

2020 has rung the alarm bell for biopharmas to address racial disparities in health outcomes. 

Against the backdrop of the response to George Floyd’s death, COVID-19 has exposed the vast inequality in health outcomes across racial and minority ethnic groups, an untenable discrepancy in many disease areas that has been simmering without due attention for years. 

The problem can no longer be ignored. As the industry prioritizes its imperatives emerging from the pandemic, top of the list should be a goal to dissolve the disparities.

In the U.S., the chances of Black Americans dying from COVID-19 are more than twice those of whites, and in the U.K., Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have a 10-50% higher chance of dying from COVID-19 than white British, according to government statistics. 

The pandemic has the potential to change the dynamic. And biopharma leaders increasingly are voicing the need to accept responsibility for addressing these disparities across the board.

“It’s been a wake-up call, certainly for the leadership of large biopharmaceutical companies,” Vasant Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN), told BioCentury.

“It’s unacceptable the numbers

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