Walgreens launches clinical trial business with the aim of improving diversity of participants

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said Thursday it is launching a clinical trial business to help address the problems of access and diversity in the industry. The move comes after recent steps by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of participants in clinical trials, as about 20% of drugs have a variation in response across ethnic groups, even though trials tend to skew predominantly white. Some 75% of participants in trials are white, while 11% are Hispanic and less than 10% are Black and Asian. “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,” said Ramita Tandon, chief clinical trials officer at Walgreens, in a statement. Patient recruitment and enrollment are challenges in trials that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, she added. Nearly 80% of trials fail to meet enrollment goals in the stated timeframes, which can cause costly delays. Walgreens plans to improve outreach using its own data, and by tapping the communities it serve — more than half of its 9,000 stores are located in “socially vulnerable” areas. Walgreens shares were down 1.4% premarket and have fallen 22% in the year to date, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 15.6%.

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