The recent launch by the Walgreens pharmacy store chain of clinical trial business operations will improve patient diversity in medical studies and boost trials as a care option, says Ramita Tandon, chief clinical trials officer for the Illinois-based company.
Walgreens says that its clinical trial model combines the company’s 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.
The introduction of Walgreens’ clinical trial offerings coincides with recent steps taken by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to increase racial and ethnic diversity in clinical trials, given that 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 less than 10% are Black and Asian, the company notes.
“We can provide patients who have traditionally been left out of the clinical trial process with an opportunity to participate or learn more,” says Tandon. “We can match those patients to trials quickly and efficiently, ensuring that traditionally underrepresented populations are part of the drug development process.”
Walgreens has already done some work in this area through its COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Initiative. It was created to provide education and information to address hesitancy, correct misinformation, and serve as a source of credible, reliable information.
“We have administered approximately 40 million vaccinations in socially vulnerable areas (including stores in medically underserved areas and about 1,500 offsite equity clinics that have collectively accounted for about 207,000 of those doses),” Tandon says. “Moreover, we will be creating partnerships and strategic alliances with organizations that help us reach” underserved populations, she adds.
The Walgreens initiative should also spur clinical trials as a care option, Tandon says. “To offer clinical trials as a care option, we created a flexible model designed to conduct hybrid trials supported by cutting-edge technology and industry partners,” she explains. “We will introduce trials to patients across a range of therapeutic areas and geographies virtually, at-home, or in-person [at study sites] with the support of principal investigators and clinical research staff. Our 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 our commitment for last-mile enablement.”
Author: Michael Causey