It is no secret that retailer behemoths are gaining momentum in diversifying into primary care.
What’s lesser known is that they also are carving a niche in an unanticipated area: the clinical trial services business.
Retail pharmacy’s foray into clinical trial services may raise some eyebrows, but it is a no-brainer given their enhanced focus on improving patient outcomes in the communities they serve. Additionally, there is an increased need by pharmaceutical companies to develop and bring new drugs and vaccines to market amid increased regulatory efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to promote clinical trial invitation and participation among diverse adults. It’s clear that branching out into this space is a win-win-win for retailers, patients and pharma companies.
Still, forging ahead in the clinical trials space can be a daunting endeavor given the lack of awareness among prospective participants. In fact, in 2020, 41% of Americans reported not knowing anything about clinical trials, according to The National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey.
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This substantial lack of awareness comes as the number of clinical trials is soaring. According to the National Institutes of Health, the number of registered clinical trials grew by 37,000 from 2021 to 2022.
Michael Abrams, managing partner of consulting firm Numerof & Associates, said the pandemic highlighted that minority groups have more health problems and less access to healthcare delivery, yet clinical trials typically do not reflect the minorities that make up the broader U.S. population. “Roughly 80% of the populations that are involved in clinical trials are white participants and minorities, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and native Americans are underrepresented,” Abrams said.
Catherine Gregor, chief clinical trials officer for Florence Healthcare, echoed Abrams’ sentiments, and advised the industry to make sure it’s reaching patients representative of real-world populations. “This will mean relying on different types of sites and moving research further into communities where patients live,” Gregor said.
Prime standouts that have the capability to move research into communities and are making headway in the clinical trial space include CVS Health, Walgreens and Walmart.
In June, Walgreens, which had some experience recruiting participants for trials, launched a tech-enabled clinical trial business.
“Early on we dipped our toes into clinical trials when manufacturers reached out to simply send out letters to our patient communities to elicit interest,” said Ramita Tandon, chief clinical trials officer of