USA —CVS, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the United States, has confirmed its decision to close down its clinical trials unit, which was launched just two years ago.

The pharmacy chain operator emphasized that the winding down process will be conducted in a phased manner, with the ultimate goal of a complete exit by December 31, 2024.

The clinical trials unit was unveiled by CVS in May 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim of supporting clinical trials for vaccines and treatments targeting the virus.

Other major pharmacy players, such as Walgreens and Walmart, followed suit by establishing their own health research institutes in 2022. Kroger also joined the trend by opening a clinical trial site network earlier this year.

These pharmacy giants highlighted their nationwide infrastructure and vast patient data as key advantages, enabling them to connect with a wide range of patients and assist pharmaceutical companies in reaching a larger and more diverse participant pool for clinical trials.

The ability to recruit targeted patient populations more efficiently was expected to accelerate trial enrollment, reduce costs, and address the persistent issue of bias in trial populations.

Currently, the majority of clinical trials struggle to meet their enrollment targets and timelines, making the efforts of these pharmacy chains particularly significant.

CVS’ clinical trials business relied on data from over 100 million CVS patients and was actively recruiting participants for five ongoing trials, including studies related to narcolepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, and kidney health, as indicated on its website.

However, CVS has not publicly disclosed the financial performance of its clinical trials unit. The spokesperson declined to provide information regarding the unit’s profitability.

The decision to close down the clinical trials services division aligns with CVS’s larger corporate strategy of focusing on core operations and integrating recent acquisitions in the primary care and home health sectors.

The company has been actively pursuing major mergers and acquisitions, including the US$10.6 billion acquisition of primary care company Oak Street Health and the US$8 billion purchase of home care provider Signify Health.

These integration efforts, along with associated costs, have affected CVS’s financial outlook for 2023.

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