Walgreens takes on clinical trials business with new boss

Leading the new business is Ramita Tandon, who has been building and leading high-performing clinical trial companies and teams at companies such as Trip Health and ICON. Throughout his 25-year career in healthcare, Tandon has focused on finding innovative ways to partner with biopharmaceutical companies and uncover the voice of the patient to operate trials more effectively.

Clinical trials do not reflect the US population. Twenty percent of drugs have a variation in responses between ethnic groups, but 75% of clinical trial participants are white. And only 11 percent are Hispanic and less than 10 percent are black and Asian, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

[Read more: Walgreens launches clinical trial business]

The director of clinical trials of the new business Walgreens shared with Drugstore news how your team will make clinical trials more accessible, convenient and equitable.

Drugstore news: How will you continue to break down barriers for diverse patient populations?
Twig Tandon: I strongly believe that everyone should be educated, empowered and have the opportunity to access cutting-edge therapies that improve their health. However, the current clinical trial infrastructure and patient demographics are in crisis. We have an overwhelmingly white trial population in zip codes centralized in hospital systems and larger research centers that produce clinical data that may not be relevant to all patients. At Walgreens, we seek to redefine the patient experience by making participation in clinical trials more accessible, convenient and equitable for the diverse communities we serve.

Clinical trials are not only an avenue for research, but also a way to bring patients from underserved communities into the mainstream healthcare system. To do this, we’ve created the ideal combination of technology, personal connection and flexible care capabilities needed to transform clinical trial delivery, with patient safety and privacy at the forefront of everything we do. With more than half of Walgreens stores located in socially vulnerable areas, we have a responsibility to address the persistent disparities in clinical trials that prevent many of our friends, families and neighbors from being seen and cared for.

[Read more: Walgreens taps Min Cho as chief format concepts and design officer]

DSN: How will the clinical trials business differ from others you have run in the past?
RT: Walgreens’ new clinical trial offering has the potential to forge the missing link between the public and clinical research, allowing innovation to become medicines that inspire confidence and improve outcomes. Walgreens is uniquely positioned to offer flexible clinical trial options that engage patients and address barriers to clinical trial participation, particularly among underserved communities.

With our nationwide community presence, combined with our enterprise-wide health data and solutions, including those enabled by Health Corners, Village Medical at Walgreens, AllianceRx Walgreens Pharmacy, CareCentrix and Shields Health Solutions, we can unlock a combination of individual, virtual and hybrid clinical trial models at scale to serve patients wherever they are. This will undoubtedly help increase patient enrollment, engagement, and retention in clinical trials as we give patients a choice in how they want to participate in trials and promote clinical research as a promising care option.

Also, when a trial ends, it’s not over for Walgreens. Our goal is to take trial participants, even after they have finished their obligations with a clinical trial, and continue their care coordination as part of our commitment to the enablement of the last mile.

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