Photo: Walgreens/Getty Images
Pharmacy retail giant Walgreens announced the launch of a clinical trials business with the aim of boosting access and retention in sponsor-led drug development research by engaging broader and more diverse communities.
The company will use its collection of pharmacy and patient-authorized clinical data to match diverse patient populations to various clinical trials based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, and location.
Walgreens plans to use a combination of in-person and virtual care options, as well as its tech resources, to inform clinical trial designs and optimize trial execution.
“Our commitment to the clinical trials business is another way we are building our next growth engine of consumer-centric healthcare solutions,” said Ramita Tandon, Walgreens chief clinical trials officer. “We can now provide another care offering for patients with complex or chronic conditions in their treatment journey, while helping advance treatment options for the diverse communities we serve.”
She said the company’s goal is to take trial participants, even after they’ve finished their obligations to a clinical trial and continue their care coordination as part of Walgreens’ commitment for last-mile enablement.
“When a trial ends, it doesn’t end for Walgreens,” she said.
The company is leveraging its own portfolio and partner digital and physical assets, including select Health Corner and Village Medical at Walgreens locations, to directly engage patients at home, virtually or in-person.
Walgreens plans partnerships with pharma companies to create a clinical trials experience that supports patient convenience and a more representative collection of trial data.
Synergies with AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy, as well as investments made by Walgreens Boots Alliance in CareCentrix and Shields Health Solutions, will also support new clinical trials approaches, particularly for specialty indications.
With the launch of Walgreens clinical trials business, the company’s goal is to increase the percentage of the U.S. population that participates in research, which is less than 5% today.
“If we can use our scale and century-plus of trust and care that we have with patients to educate and empower them, we can make a meaningful difference to streamline clinical trial infrastructure and cost and improve health outcomes,” Tandon said.
WHY THIS MATTERS
While technology continues to propel clinical trials, research in the U.S. still lacks accurate representation of the country.
Lack of diversity in clinical trials influences drug development, with one reason for the lack of participation is logistical: 50 miles is the average distance a patient lives from the nearest clinical testing site.
More than half who participate in one research study do not participate in another.
Meanwhile, overall patient recruitment and enrollment are twin challenges to successful clinical trials. These issues have been further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearly 80% of trials fail to meet their enrollment goals in the stated timeframes, often contributing to costly delays, according to a 2020 study.
THE LARGER TREND
Some healthcare experts have noted COVID-19 has heightened public interest in vaccine and therapeutic research and say now is the time to build on that engagement, finding new ways to enroll volunteers in other clinical trials and improve the patient experience.
Walgreens is also partnering with smart care coordination service Pluto Health, which rapidly unifies siloed health information across sources including medical records, social determinants of health and insurance claims, and can help determine if clinical research is a care option for a particular patient.
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