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Local pharmacies and big-box stores are no longer just purveyors of deodorant, prescriptions, and laundry detergent; many have crossed the line into healthcare providers — offering everything from flu vaccines to primary care checkups. These highly trafficked neighborhood retailers have been building healthcare delivery capabilities at more than 2,000 locations nationwide, aligning to changing patient preferences and answering the call of consumers who want care at more convenient locations.

This shift for retailers and the disruption to conducting clinical trials at academic medical centers and hospitals by Covid-19 has given the biopharma industry an opportunity to significantly accelerate alternative clinical trial delivery approaches, such as local, at home, and virtual options. Leveraging the scale, reach, and capabilities of national retail health clinics and physician practices is helping to transform an antiquated clinical trial model and address the weaknesses of traditional trials that were exposed by shutdowns during the pandemic.

Tapping into local markets

Decentralized trials — which are designed, planned, and executed using a combination of delivery channels — are seen as a way to reduce operational complexities, cycle times, costs, and patient burden. In addition, decentralized trials can open access to more diverse patient populations, bolstering enrollment and offering increased flexibility that reduces patient burden and improves retention.

Traditionally, clinical trials take place across a large number of small, fragmented sites, making it difficult to effectively plan, deliver, and manage clinical trials. Alternatively, new entrants could offer a large number of locations that are operated as a single megasite, providing companies with large national partners that are convenient to patients. The future model could bring the total number of sites down from the current average of 94 to as few as 10 on a typical Phase III trial, providing a hub-and-spoke model with better geographic coverage, as well as enterprise-level compliance and quality monitoring.

New entrants — like national retail pharmacies, retail health clinics, physician practices, and decentralized trial technology companies — have access to exponentially larger numbers of patients. PwC’s Health Research Institute found that 67% of consumers were less likely to participate in a clinical trial for Covid-19 treatment if they had to travel outside of their local area to a trial site.

Increased access to patients allows for the acceleration of recruitment and the ability to start up fully-scaled trial delivery capacity in days or weeks versus months. The convenience of location and increased access improves flexibility for patients, ultimately reducing the patient dropout rate.

A new prescription for care

National retail health clinics and community practices could play a critical role in the next-generation clinical development models currently being established. These large players will catalyze a decentralized, “omnichannel” approach that integrates hospitals, at-home services, virtual/technology aspects and local providers and clinics.

Read the full article for more on how new market entrants are upending decentralized trials and transforming clinical trial delivery.