How CVS Health plans to use its business to conduct better drug clinical trials


D.During the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccine and drug innovation advanced at an unprecedented pace. And this innovation required the recruitment of large numbers of people for clinical trials at unprecedented rates. CVS Health, the parent company of the pharmacy chain, which also includes insurance giant Aetna and other industries, helped leverage its contacts for the task: the company interacted with over 300,000 volunteers for the Covid-19 vaccine studies by providing them with studies near you.

Last month the company did announced that it is building a new clinical trial service business, aiming to combine innovation and experience to improve the overall participant experience, to increase retention and research effectiveness.

The company will continue to work on studies for Covid therapeutics and vaccines, but will also develop other therapeutics by partnering with some of the leading pharmaceutical biotech companies, says Dr. Owen Garrick, Vice President of Clinical Trial Delivery, CVS Healthcare Clinical Trial Services. Since the announcement, the company has been approached by potential partners and tried to use the existing relationships with other companies.

“You can say that these drugs work in certain populations because those populations are actually in these clinical trials,” says Garrick.

To support patient recruitment, CVS Health wants to leverage the trusting relationships it has built with its patients to keep them informed of any developments. That simply includes the company’s ability to raise awareness of clinical trials – a report from the National Health Institute found that 75% of patients would have a tendency to take part in clinical trials if they had known at diagnosis that they were an option but were often unaware of it.

“It’s not just the ability to provide facts, but the ability to be a trusted partner,” says Garrick. “The recipient who hears these facts believes them, accepts them, is able to question them, suppress them and have a good conversation about them.”

CVS Health uses both telemedicine appointments and home visits, and is working on decentralized clinical trials to reach a “majority of the US population”. With hundreds of CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic in the country, the company can help reassure its pharmaceutical company customers that its clinical trials are becoming more accessible and convenient for patients, which can help ensure that patients are actually completing the trials.

The last point is a big one, because a report highlighted by the company found that 30% of patients who start a clinical trial do not finish it. “Maintaining and participating in a study is critical,” says Garrick.

Aside from customer loyalty, the company is also looking to improve the variety of clinical trials due to its national reach. Some of the barriers preventing people of color from participating in these studies range from lack of confidence to financial problems and awareness. To help overcome these health disparities, various clinical studies representing the populations of regions – like the US – will lead to better understanding of efficacy, side effects, and more, according to the Biotechnology innovation organization.

“You can say that these drugs work in certain populations because those populations are actually in these clinical trials,” says Garrick. “The ability for us to think about it proactively and reactively will, in my opinion, be the key to the solution sets we employ.”

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