Researchers at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center are recruiting asthma patients for a study that they hope will improve treatments for black Americans suffering from the disease. Rates of serious asthma attacks and asthma-related hospitalizations and deaths are much higher among black people than other populations.

The Best African American Response to Asthma Drugs (BARD) study is being spearheaded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study will take place at 30 sites in 14 states, including New Mexico. UNM is part of the NHLBI’s Asthmanet, a nationwide clinical research network focused on finding new asthma treatments for children and adults.

According to the NIH, the BARD study will compare multiple combinations of medications and dosing regimens to assess responses to therapy.  Researchers plan to enroll 500 people nationwide for the study.

Existing data suggests that blacks respond differently to current asthma treatments than other populations, and as a result, current asthma guidelines may not be appropriate for black people with asthma, according to Dr. Hengameh Raissy, an asthma researcher in the UNM School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics.

In New Mexico, asthma presents a major public health challenge – nearly 200,000 New Mexicans live with the disease. But its impact on the black community compared to other groups is especially striking.

 “Whether this disparity is due to social, environmental, cultural or genetic factors remains unclear,” Raissy said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:

  1. The prevalence of asthma exacerbations for self-identified blacks is 19.2 percent higher than the rate of whites, with even higher rates of emergency room visits.
  2. Hospitalization rates for asthma are nearly 2.5 times greater in blacks than whites.
  3. The death rate is 165 percent higher in the black population than white population.

“Our hope with this study is to learn more about these disparities and the best approach to managing asthma of black patients,” Raissy said.

Raissy is working on the study with support from the UNM Clinical and Translational Science Center and is recruiting pediatric and adult patients.

To participate or to learn more about the study, call 505-272-9889