Walmart announces it's entering drug research field

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Watch out, big pharma! Walmart announces it’s entering drug research field to make medicine ‘safer, higher quality and more equitable’

  • America’s largest supermarket chain said it would start recruitment to trials
  • It is the third pharmacy to give this option after rivals Walgreens and CVS
  • Patients with chronic conditions like diabetes will be first to be recruited

Walmart is entering the drug research industry, it announced today.

The supermarket chain vowed to make medicine ‘safer, higher quality and more equitable’.

It will work with pharmaceutical companies, medical centers and research labs on trials of new treatments.

It’s chief medical officer Dr John Widneswaran said they aimed to get more ethnic minorities into clinical trials, which are historically under-represented.

The chain said it planned to set up an institute that will initially focus on studies for treatments for heart disease, diabetes, Covid asthma.

It will also consider research on conditions like HIV and dementia.

Dr Widneswaran said the institute will have an independent review board to ensure the most beneficial trials are chosen and patients are given appropriate messaging. 

Walmart said today it was starting to give customers the options of joining clinical trials for chronic diseases. Pictured above is its head office in Arkansas

Walmart said today it was starting to give customers the options of joining clinical trials for chronic diseases. Pictured above is its head office in Arkansas

Walmart already provides primary and urgent care through diagnostic tests, X-rays and check-ups at its 25 health centers.

The chain also has nearly 5,000 pharmacies, making it the third largest in the country behind Walgreens and CVS.

To take part in the trial run by the new Walmart Healthcare Research Institute (WHRI), patients will need to be signed up to its patient portal called ‘MyHealthJourney’.

It is not clear how many patients are currently signed up to the patient portal.

How do I join a drug trial through Walmart? 

Walmart said today it would start giving its customers the option of joining drug trials.

This could give them early access to cutting edge experimental treatment free of charge.

Walmart said it is currently recruiting for chronic diseases including heart problems and diabetes.

This is being done via the ‘MyHealthJourney’ patient portal, where patients are contacted if a study turns up that they may be able to take part in.

It is following in the footsteps of rivals Walgreens and CVS which both already offer their customers the option 

A spokeswoman told DailyMail.com that since June they had already signed up thousands of patients to clinical trials.

She said they were working with a ‘wide range’ of research organizations, big pharma companies and leading academic medical journals.

Patient recruitment is often challenging in clinical trials, with many studies needing to be delayed or terminated as too few people offer to participate.

But Walmart hopes that by offering the opportunity to its patients much more clinical research can be carried out.

It says it particularly aims to get women, old people, and ethnic minorities signed up to the trials — who are historically under-represented in studies.

Data from the Food and Drug Administration shows only about 11 per cent of trial participants in the US are hispanic, despite the group making up 18 per cent of the population.

Despite 12 per cent of the population being black, the group makes up just nine per cent of participants in clinical trials.

Announcing Walmart’s launch into the research field, Dr Wigneswaran said: ‘At Walmart we want to help ensure all customers have access to high quality, affordable and convenient healthcare resources including innovative research.

‘We know our customers are interested in participating in healthcare research, but many have not had access until now.’

Duke Univeristy’s Health chairman Bill Hawkins praised the move today saying: ‘The efforts by Walmart in research are innovative and impactful — it is clear that hte intention behind their foray into this space is to genuinely make a difference for patients of all ages, race and gender in their ability to access research.

‘This initiative will support individual patient health as well as the health of numerous comminutuies home to Walmart stores.’

Walmart launched the service in June this year, but has only just announced the set-up of the WHRI center. 

Rival Walgreens launched its clinical trial service in June and says it is already in talks with ‘many leading pharmaceutical companies’.

It has already worked with the University of North Texas for a study on African American HIV patients.

CVS started offering the recruitment to patients last year.

It has since worked with the US Department of Health and Human Services to track Covid variants, and worked on a study with Pfizer to track the long-term effects of a Covid infection.

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