CVS Health launching new business arm to drive greater clinical trial participation

CVS Health has launched a new business arm that aims to drive greater, and more diverse, participation in clinical trials.

CVS Health's new Clinical Trials Services business focuses on three core areas: patient recruitment, delivering clinical trials in multiple ways and generating real-world evidence on therapies and devices.

Owen Garrick, M.D., vice president of clinical trial delivery at CVS Health Clinical Trial Services, told Fierce Healthcare that the team is building on decades of work at CVS to build community ties and relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

"This is, in some respects, a new business, but we’re really scaling and expanding work that we’ve done historically at CVS," he said. "This is not us dipping our toe in, this is really us building on a 15-, 20-year history and really being focused on it."

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Garrick said the pandemic has driven a much larger public conversation around clinical trials and drug development as vaccines moved through the pipeline. He said he expects that interest to spill over into other types of drugs and devices and may make traditionally underrepresented groups more likely to participate in trials.

People of color have historically been underrepresented in clinical trials, and the lack of data on these patient groups can hold back precision medicine and other targeted therapies, experts say.

In addition to the evolving national conversation around clinical trials, CVS Health will offer participating patients multiple avenues to join the study. They can come into CVS stores, where they will be treated in a clinic, or choose to participate at home or virtually.

Giving patients options encourages them to participate in the venue that feels most comfortable to them, Garrick said.

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"We think our model helps break through a lot of the challenges we see as an industry in clinical trial participation by offering this flexibility," Garrick said.

He added that CVS' existing community ties are also going to play a key role in the team's work. The team has relationships at the local level to get the word out, and customers have a high level of comfort with CVS' employees, especially their pharmacists.

Pharmacists can inform patients about potential trials they could join when they come to pick up prescriptions, for example, he said.

"We have the ability to really impact, in a positive way, clinical trial participation," he said.