Drawing on its strong pharmacy roots, extensive retail reach, and large in-house personnel pool, Walgreens hopes its new leap into the clinical trial industry will promote patient and workforce diversity, spread the benefits of clinical trials into rural and other underserved areas, and generally elevate the profession, says Adam Samson, MS, PMP, CCDM, CCRC, CCRA, head of clinical delivery operations for the real-world evidence clinical trials sector at Walgreens.
Walgreens is looking into using Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) training materials to help bring some personnel up to speed, Samson says. “We want our staff to benefit from robust training,” he notes, “and not just a three-hour” look at Good Clinical Practices. Walgreens wants its clinical trials team to have “comprehensive fundamental knowledge” about how clinical trials work and how best to connect with patients, he adds.
The company hopes to ramp up staffing by training existing personnel and retaining recruitment firms to find new talent, Samson says.
In June, Walgreens announced a major leap into the clinical trial business designed to “redefine the patient experience and increase access and retention in sponsor-led drug development research,” the company said in a press release.
Walgreens’ flexible clinical trial model intends to leverage 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.
The introduction of Walgreens’ clinical trial offerings coincides with 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; however, 75% of clinical trial participants are white, only 11% percent are Hispanic, and fewer than 10% percent are Black and Asian,, according to the agency.
“We want to help extend diversity in clinical trials, and believe we’re in a position to do so,” Samson says, noting nearly 80% of the U.S. population is within five miles of a Walgreens retail outlet. “We are already in some of the communities that need [clinical trial options] the most,” he notes.
“We can provide patients who have traditionally been left out of the clinical trial process with an opportunity to participate or learn more,” Ramita Tandon, chief clinical trials officer for Walgreens, told ACRP in June. “We can match those patients to trials quickly and efficiently, ensuring that traditionally underrepresented populations are part of the drug development process.”
Author: Michael Causey