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Walgreens launches clinical trial business

Walgreens’ clinical trial business will address diversity challenges.

Walgreens is moving into a new business space, launching a clinical trial business that the company said will “redefine the patient experience, and increase access and retention in sponsor-led drug development research.”

Walgreens also said that its flexible clinical trial model combines the company’s vast foundation of patient insights, partner-enabled health and technology capabilities, and in-person and virtual care options to break through barriers to engaging broader and more diverse communities.

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The introduction of Walgreens clinical trial offerings coincides with recent steps taken by the Food and Drug Administration to increase racial and ethnic diversity in clinical trials. That's because 20% of drugs have a variation in responses across ethnic groups, yet 75% of clinical trial participants are white, while only 11% are Hispanic and fewer than 10% are Black and Asian, Walgreens said.

Walgreens trusted community presence across the nation, combined with our enterprise-wide data and health capabilities, enables us to pioneer a comprehensive solution that makes health options, including clinical trials, more accessible, convenient and equitable,” said Ramita Tandon, chief clinical trials officer at Walgreens.

“Through the launch of our clinical trials services, we can provide another offering for patients with complex or chronic conditions in their care journey,while helping sponsors advance treatment options for the diverse communities we serve,” Ramita said. “This is yet another way we are building our next growth engine of consumer-centric healthcare solutions.”

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Patient recruitment and enrollment remain challenges in clinical trials, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 80% of trials fail to meet their enrollment goals in the stated timeframes, often contributing to costly delays. Walgreens is addressing these challenges and improving the overall clinical trial experience by rapidly scaling three portfolio-integrated, patient-centric service lines:

  • Insights-Driven Patient Recruitment: With Walgreens patient reach and access to an extensive foundation of pharmacy and patient-authorized clinical data, the company can proactively match diverse patient populations to trials across a range of disease areas based on race, gender, socioeconomic status and location. By leveraging a tech-enabled approach to patient identification and creating a large registry of clinical trial participants, Walgreens will reduce the time it takes to match eligible patients to clinical trials.
  • Trials to Patients: Walgreens is addressing access barriers through a compliant, validated and secure decentralized clinical trial platform built on rigorous compliance and regulatory framework to ensure patient privacy and security. This approach leverages owned 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. Synergies with AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy, as well as investments made by Walgreens Boots Alliance in CareCentrix and Shields Health Solutions, also will support new clinical trial approaches, particularly for specialty indications. This innovative operating model will accelerate patient searches, simplify workflow, and enable a faster and more representative collection of trial data.
  • Real-World Evidence and Informatics: Walgreens is building on a legacy of delivering high-quality, real-world evidence to unlock value in therapeutics and help improve health outcomes. Through a robust foundation of real-world insights, Walgreens can support sponsors’ drug development strategies, inform clinical trial designs, optimize trial execution and improve diversity in trials. In fact, real-world insights delivered through the Walgreens COVID-19 Index helped inform national and local health decisions and plans.

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More than half of Walgreens nearly 9,000 stores are located in socially vulnerable areas. When combined with its customer relationships, digital offerings that keep patients connected to care and partnerships with national and local organizations, the retailer has a proven ability to break down barriers to health engagement and access among diverse patient populations, the company said.

Most recently, Walgreens hosted vaccine clinics and events to address vaccine hesitancy with help from more than 750 diverse, community-based partners and administered approximately 40 million COVID-19 vaccines to underserved communities throughout the pandemic.

One of the partners for the Walgreens expanded healthcare offering will be Pluto Health, a multilayered, smart care coordination service that unifies siloed health information from multiple places, such as medical records, social determinants of health, insurance claims and more, within 30 minutes.

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The Pluto Health team then evaluates patient health information with the recommended clinical care guidelines and social determinants of health data to identify and close any potential gaps in care. This helps ensure every patient receives the best possible care through up-to-date screenings, vaccinations and other health interventions, such as clinical research as a care option. 

“Pluto Health was co-created within the healthcare community to make the provision of care achievable and more equitable for more people with better care coordination,” said Joy Bhosai, co-founder of CEO Pluto Health.

“As a part of our primary goal to coordinate care and support patients on their terms, we are thrilled to play a part in making the latest medical advances more accessible,”  Bhosai said. “It’s time to accelerate healthcare access for all patients, from all walks of life, and from anywhere in the nation.”

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