The Walgreens clinical trial business looks to engage a more diverse community

Photo: Walgreens / Getty Images

Pharmacy retail giant Walgreens has announced the launch of a clinical trial business aimed at accessing and retaining sponsor-led drug development research involving a larger and more diverse community.

The company will use its pharmacy and patient-approved clinical data collection to match different patient populations with different clinical trials based on race, gender, socioeconomic status and location.

Walgreens plans to use a combination of personal and virtual care options as well as its technical resources to inform clinical trial design and optimize trial execution.

“Our commitment to the clinical trial business is another way we are building the engine for the next growth of our customer-centric healthcare solutions,” said Ramita Tandon, Walgreens’ chief clinical trial officer. “We can now offer another care for patients with complex or chronic conditions in their treatment journey, where we support advance treatment options for different communities.”

He said the company’s goal is to take trial participants, even after they have completed their obligation to a clinical trial, and continue to coordinate their care as part of Walgreens’ commitment to end-mile capability.

“When a trial ends, it doesn’t end for Walgreens,” he said.

The company is using its own portfolio and partner digital and physical resources, including selective health corners and rural medicine at Walgreens locations, to engage patients directly at home, practically or personally.

Walgreens plans to partner with pharma companies to create a clinical trial experience that supports patient convenience and more representative collection of trial data.

Synergy with AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy, as well as investments made by Walgreens Boots Alliance in CareCentrix and Shields Health Solutions will support new clinical trial methods, especially for specialties.

With the launch of the Walgreens Clinical Trial business, the company aims to increase the percentage of the U.S. population participating in the study, which is currently less than 5%.

“If we can use our scale and century-plus faith and care to educate and empower patients, we can make a meaningful difference in improving clinical trial infrastructure and costs and health outcomes.”

Why this matter

Although technology continues to conduct clinical trials, research in the United States still lacks accurate representation of the country.

Lack of diversity in clinical trials affects drug development, one reason for lack of participation is logical: 50 miles is the average distance from a patient’s nearest clinical testing site.

More than half of those who participate in one research study do not participate in another.

Meanwhile, overall patient recruitment and enrollment are two challenges for successful clinical trials. These problems have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 epidemic.

According to a 2020 survey, about 80% of trials fail to meet their enrollment targets within deadlines, often contributing to costly delays.

Greater trend

Some healthcare experts point out that COVID-19 has increased public interest in vaccine and therapeutic research, and say it’s time to find new ways to build that engagement, enlist volunteers in other clinical trials, and improve patient experiences.

Walgreens is partnering with Smart Care Coordination Services Pluto Health, which quickly collects silent health information across sources, including medical records, social determinants of health and insurance claims, and clinical research to help determine whether a care option is specific to a particular patient.

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