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How retail pharmacies can transform clinical trials

Retail pharmacies have a strong opportunity to increase their presence in clinical drug trials, expanding the pool of trial participants.

The clinical trial landscape is shifting, with a strong push toward driving more diversity in the pool of trial participants. Retail pharmacies are well positioned to play a major role in this shift, both from a geographic and community-trust standpoint, but they will need to add new capabilities to make the most of this opportunity.

EY-Parthenon teams interviewed several senior executives of R&D organizations at mid– and large-sized pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to get their perspectives on partnering with retail pharmacies. The teams also surveyed consumers across various demographics to understand how they viewed their retail pharmacies and their understanding of and interest in the clinical trial process.


The results illustrate that there is a great opportunity for retail pharmacies to expand the current clinical trial system, which could alter the roles of current players such as contract research organizations (CROs) that work with pharma trial sponsors. However, retail pharmacies still have hurdles to overcome, mainly through increased investment and staff training, to have a more significant and sustained impact in the space.


Among ways that retail pharmacies can support clinical trials are by leveraging patient and customer relationships to increase education and awareness of trials, using their convenient locations to make clinical trials accessible for more and diverse patients, aggregating patient data, and managing supply chain logistics.


However, there are still additional capabilities that sponsors believe retail pharmacies should invest in to enter the clinical trial market. These include developing additional product storage, ensuring good clinical practice compliance for their specific policies and procedures, upskilling their current staff to provide quality training and qualifications, and developing or purchasing the appropriate technology to capture and safely store sensitive patient data. Leveraging all these capabilities needs to be considered early in the design of trials for both sponsors and contract research organizations.

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    Kevin Anderson and Adam Berman also contributed to this article.


    EY-Parthenon research shows retail pharmacies are well positioned to play a major role in this shift, both from a geographic and community-trust standpoint. Still, retail pharmacies need to add new capabilities in order to make the most of these opportunities.

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