Evaluating Demographic Representation in Clinical Trials: Use of the Adaptive Coronavirus Disease 2019 Treatment Trial (ACTT) as a Test Case

Ana M. Ortega-Villa*, Noreen A. Hynes, Corri B. Levine, Katherine Yang, Zanthia Wiley, Nikolaus Jilg, Jing Wang, Jennifer A. Whitaker, Christopher J. Colombo, Seema U. Nayak, Hannah Jang Kim, Nicole M. Iovine, Dilek Ince, Stuart H. Cohen, Adam J. Langer, Jonathan M. Wortham, Robert L. Atmar, Hana M. El Sahly, Mamta K. Jain, Aneesh K. MehtaCameron R. Wolfe, Carlos A. Gomez, Tatiana Beresnev, Richard A. Mularski, Catharine I. Paules, Andre C. Kalil, Angela R. Branche, Annie Luetkemeyer, Barry S. Zingman, Jocelyn Voell, Michael Whitaker, Michelle S. Harkins, Richard T. DaveyJr, Robert Grossberg, Sarah L. George, Victor Tapson, William R. Short, Varduhi Ghazaryan, Constance A. Benson, Lori E. Dodd, Daniel A. Sweeney, Kay M. Tomashek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background. Clinical trials initiated during emerging infectious disease outbreaks must quickly enroll participants to identify treatments to reduce morbidity and mortality. This may be at odds with enrolling a representative study population, especially when the population affected is undefined. Methods. We evaluated the utility of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19–Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET), the COVID-19 Case Surveillance System (CCSS), and 2020 United States (US) Census data to determine demographic representation in the 4 stages of the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial (ACTT). We compared the cumulative proportion of participants by sex, race, ethnicity, and age enrolled at US ACTT sites, with respective 95% confidence intervals, to the reference data in forest plots. Results. US ACTT sites enrolled 3509 adults hospitalized with COVID-19. When compared with COVID-NET, ACTT enrolled a similar or higher proportion of Hispanic/Latino and White participants depending on the stage, and a similar proportion of African American participants in all stages. In contrast, ACTT enrolled a higher proportion of these groups when compared with US Census and CCSS. The proportion of participants aged ≥65 years was either similar or lower than COVID-NET and higher than CCSS and the US Census. The proportion of females enrolled in ACTT was lower than the proportion of females in the reference datasets. Conclusions. Although surveillance data of hospitalized cases may not be available early in an outbreak, they are a better comparator than US Census data and surveillance of all cases, which may not reflect the population affected and at higher risk of severe disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberofad290
JournalOpen Forum Infectious Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • ACTT
  • COVID-19 clinical trials
  • representation evaluation


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