USA –Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc has launched a clinical trials business, aiming to use patient data from its pharmacies to help drive up recruitment in drugmaker studies.

Walgreens aims to revolutionize the antiquated clinical trials model with an eye toward using its community reach to increase patient enrollment as well as racial and ethnic diversity in sponsor-led drug development research, executives said.

We move into healthcare, and we’re focused on creating consumer healthcare solutions in our local communities; clinical trials are sort of a natural extension of that vision overall,” said Ramita Tandon, the company’s new chief clinical trials officer, Fierce Healthcare quoted.

With the clinical trials business, the company plans to use its vast trove of data and new services to help cut costs for drugmakers and capture a share of the roughly US$83 billion market

Tandon described the clinical trials business as Walgreens’ “next growth engine” of consumer-centric healthcare solutions.

Tandon said Walgreens is in “active discussions” with a number of drug manufacturers looking to launch clinical trials.

Walgreens will combine the flexible clinical trial model with its vast data on patient insights, partner-enabled health and technology capabilities, and in-person and virtual care options.

The introduction of Walgreens’ clinical trial offerings coincides with recent steps taken by the FDA to increase racial and ethnic diversity in clinical trials.

The company notes that 20% of drugs have a variation in responses across ethnic groups, yet 75% of trial participants are white. In comparison, only 11% are Hispanic, and fewer than 10% are Black and Asian.

Best known for its chain of drugstores, Walgreens has been looking to expand beyond its core business and spent US$5.5 billion last year to take majority stakes in two health care providers, VillageMD and CareCentrix, Reuters reported.

With the clinical trials business, the company plans to use its vast trove of data and new services to help cut costs for drugmakers and capture a share of the roughly US$83 billion market, the report noted.

Walgreens also plans to leverage CareCentrix, a home health management company the retail giant bought last fall, to deploy home healthcare solutions to enable patients to participate in clinical trials from home, said Ramita Tandon.

Walgreens operates about 9,000 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

More than 75% of Americans live within five miles of a Walgreens, according to the company. The company’s broad reach into communities will help make clinical trials more accessible, particularly to patients with complex or chronic conditions, executives said.

Meanwhile, Reliance Industries and Apollo Global Management have reportedly made a formal offer for Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc’s business.

Reliance, which is owned by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, has joined forces with a US private equity fund to make a £5 billion (US$6.1 billion) bid for the UK chemist chain, which was acquired by the US company in 2012.

Boots is thought to have been on the block for some time, with the US retailer wanting to focus more on North America and healthcare.

The bid for Boots would enable its US parent company to keep a stake of 30% to 40%, Proactive Investors reports.

The Issa brothers, who own Asda and EG Group, have been in the running to buy the UK chemist chain but last month threatened to walk away over a disagreement on the price.

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