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Walgreens to Aid Recruitment for Clinical Trials

Walgreens store interior

(Walgreens Co.)

17 June 2022. A retail drugstore chain is offering its store locations and online facilities to help recruit a more diverse patient population for clinical trials. Walgreens Co., based in Deerfield, Illinois, is collaborating with medical analytics company Pluto Health in Durham, North Carolina to identify customers willing to take part in clinical trials.

Walgreens is a familiar retail drugstore name in many American communities with more than 9,000 stores across the country, many of which include walk-in clinics, serving some nine million customers a day. The company says its clinical trial enrollment service aims to provide customers with more health care services, while at the same time broadening the base of potential participants in clinical trials to better represent the populations drug and medical device developers say they serve.

The need for more inclusive clinical trials is a continuing issue in health care going back decades, with the Covid-19 pandemic only making the problem worse. Data published by the Food and Drug Administration and cited by Walgreens show in 2020, three-quarters of clinical trial participants were White, with 11 percent Hispanic, and eight percent Black. In Nov. 2020, as reported by Science & Enterprise, FDA issued draft regulatory guidance to reverse the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities and women in clinical trials, even when drugs or biologics are being developed for a broad population.

Proactively recruit customers

Walgreens says it plans to create registries of clinical trial prospects by connecting willing individuals in its customer base to study sponsors. The company says its store and online customers represent a diverse population across race, gender, and socioeconomic status, as well as many geographic locations. The company plans to proactively recruit customers who indicate a willingness to take part in clinical studies.

In this effort, Walgreens is collaborating with Pluto Health, a health care analytics company that says it can quickly correlate data cross a wide range of databases to provide individualized medical insights. Pluto says it can apply its technology to match Walgreens customer characteristics and medical needs with recruiting requirements of clinical trial researchers. Pluto Health’s role in clinical trial recruitment is part of a general health care analytics partnership with Walgreens to provide more personalized medical insights for Walgreens customers.

Walgreens says it plans to use its widespread store locations and online presence to make clinical trial participation more convenient for customers. FDA’s draft guidance on broadening clinical trial participation calls for sponsors to take practical steps making clinical trial participation less burdensome on individuals. Walgreens says its experience delivering 40 million Covid-19 vaccines, many to underserved communities, shows the company can break down barriers to health care access and engagement.

“Through the launch of our clinical trials services,” says Walgreens chief clinical trials officer Ramita Tandon in a company statement, “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.”

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