Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

The global medical technology sector is worth approximately US $250 billion, of which clinical testing accounts for more than US $20 billion.  Within this, clinical testing for the African diaspora is a highly specific but significant sub-sector worth US $156 million in Latin America, USA and the Caribbean alone.

It is a common misconception held by much of the general public that different races respond similarly to medication.  This is not the case.  According to the Journal of the National Medical Association, “Pharmacogenetic research in the past few decades has uncovered significant differences among racial and ethnic groups in the metabolism, clinical effectiveness and side effect profiles of therapeutically important drugs.”[i]

Dr.Jeyaseelan of 4R (4 Research) in Barbados explains, “We are all broadly the same, but there are slight differences when working at the molecular level which can make big differences in treatment effectiveness.”  As an example, beta blockers used to treat hypertension are less effective in people from the African diaspora.

It is however estimated that between US$1 to 2 billion will be earmarked to the discovery and development of drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for Africa and its diaspora.

While this is positive news for advancements in this sub-sector, one of the current research challenges is the mistrust among African Americans of clinical trials and the US health system in general.  This has led to their underrepresentation in clinical trials, and there is concern that this lack of representation in medical research may perpetuate health disparities.ii

If we’re thinking like an entrepreneur, these factors can translate into an opportunity for the Caribbean – which is where the story of 4R becomes relevant.

4R is an ethically-driven, research solutions, start-up company created to provide services to clients carrying out healthcare research for the benefit of the African Diaspora – specifically companies outside of the Caribbean who wish to evaluate their products with the help of African-descent participants.

Despite the newness of 4R, they have already developed a reputation for quality and are presently undertaking research for firms in the US and the UK.  4R would like to expand to develop better linkages within the Caribbean, eventually undertaking research that reflects the needs of the regional health service in order to bring cutting edge procedures and treatment to the Caribbean.  (And still thinking like an entrepreneur… this will add to our advantages in the field of Health Tourism.)

4R is offering a niche service, in an area of demand and is competitive in cost and quality – the perfect mix for a successful services exporter!







[i] Journal of the National Medical Association Vol. 94, No. 10 (Suppl.), October 2002

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