CVS Health exits clinical trial business

On Wednesday, CVS revealed plans to phase out its clinical trials unit by December 2024. The company launched the business line in 2021, building off its successful participation engaging CVS patrons in COVID vaccine and treatment studies.

With 40 percent of Americans living near a CVS pharmacy, the company had hoped to facilitate the decentralization of the clinical trials business, recruiting patients who lived in markets without academic medical centers, with goals to engage 10M patients across 150 research sites. However, to date it has only enrolled 33K participants, just over 10 percent of its COVID vaccine volunteer patient cohort. 

The Gist: While CVS appears to be focusing on its faster-growing Medicare Advantage and provider businesses, following its expensive acquisitions of Oak Street Health and Signify Health, the promise for decentralized clinical research remains. 

Traditional clinical trials often suffer from low participation; recruiting from more diverse populations would improve enrollment and could enhance the quality of research conducted. 

Decentralization is also a win for patients, providing access to clinical trials for lower-income patients who may have difficulty regularly traveling to academic centers. Other players, ranging from startups to retail giants like Walmart and Walgreens, remain active in this space. While we hope they may bring new models to market, they will likely evaluate their programs against similar business decisions and profit objectives. 

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