Why CVS, Walmart, Walgreens are betting on clinical trials

Walmart, CVS and Walgreens are all entering into the clinical trials business, and given their proximity to diverse populations, the retail disruptors may have an advantage, Politico reported March 23. 

The retail giants are betting on their stores' locations and troves of patient data to give them an advantage in expanding access to trials and recruiting patients.

Caleb Alexander, MD, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Politico that this strategy is a good one as most Americans are within close proximity to a Walmart, CVS or Walgreens.

In October, Walmart launched a new Healthcare Research Institute that gives customers the chance to enroll in healthcare research. The aim of the initiative is to improve diversity in clinical trials and support interventions and medications for underrepresented communities. 

According to John Wigneswaran, MD, chief medical officer of Walmart, the company is already garnering profit from the clinical trial business and has signed deals with five of the top pharma players. 

Similarly, Walgreens also entered in the business and partnered with health data company Pluto Health to launch its own clinical trial business. 

The business uses Walgreens' patient data, technology assets and retail locations to create a clinical trial model that can increase patient enrollment as well as racial and ethnic diversity in sponsor-led drug development research.

Ramita Tandon, Walgreens' chief clinical trials officer, told Politico that the company has already converted many locations to clinical trial centers.

"There are opportunities to find better ways to design and execute clinical trials and make them more accessible," Ms. Tandon said. 

In mid-2021, CVS Health also launched a business to help connect people to clinical trials. 

As the other retail disruptors, CVS aims to drive greater access to clinical trials and create a better experience for participants to improve retention rates. 

Despite the retailer's close proximity to patient populations, Ms. Tandon said it is still challenging to convince people to participate in trials. 

According to CVS, less than 4 percent of U.S. residents participate in clinical trials, and 80 percent of trials don't meet participant enrollment deadlines.

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