In a move that mirrors longstanding practices in the pharma clinical trial research arena, Walgreens is making a case for partnerships between clinical researchers and a retail pharmacy provider. This month the company announced the creation of its Center for Health & Wellbeing Research (CHWB) website that will initially showcase 50 “outcomes studies” the company has completed over the past six years.
“The Walgreens CHWB focuses on health outcomes research,” Harry L. Leider, M.D., MBA, chief medical officer and group president, told CenterWatch. “Through real-world evidence, providers can learn how pharmacy services improve outcomes for their patients and consider how collaboration with pharmacies and retail health clinics, and meaningful use of related healthcare data enhances patient care and reduces costs.”
The CHWB is a team of 25 health services researchers led by Dr. Leider, according to the company.
At the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Pharmacy, researchers tell CenterWatch that their collaboration with Walgreens provides them with a more global view for their work.
“Collaboration with Walgreens allowed us to add the specialty pharmacy perspective to our qualitative research study looking at our medical center ecosystem for access and adherence to specialty medicines,” Jennifer Cocohoba, PharmD, BCPS, AAHIVP at USCF, told CenterWatch. “Without them, our findings would have been limited to the patient and provider perspective.”
According to Dr. Cocohoba, working with Walgreens allowed a “unique opportunity” to examine measures of non-adherence, both primary and traditional. Electronic medical records (EMR), she noted, typically do not hold this data and it is siloed in pharmacy systems.
“By combining the data from our EMR with Walgreens pharmacy claims data, we get a richer and more accurate picture of non-adherence and the factors which may be modifiable to improve it,” she said.
Featured studies on the site have been published in peer-reviewed medical and healthcare publications or been presented at scientific and industry conferences. Areas of research include HIV and specialty pharmacy, vaccinations, access to care and the patient experience, adherence and clinical outcomes, digital health and member engagement, healthcare costs and others.
According to Dr. Leider, pharmacists can learn from Walgreens’ experience and best practices at delivering pharmacy services that enhance patient care and improve clinical outcomes.
“Our peer-reviewed evidence is intended to expand the role of pharmacy in the healthcare environment and can be used to influence policy,” he said.
Also, Walgreens believes patients can learn about pharmacy services—including digital tools and clinical programs—that help them stay adherent to their treatments, avoid vaccine-preventable diseases and increase their access to care. Walgreens, Dr. Leider explained, has been committed to research and innovation throughout its history.
“Customers will see that Walgreens is collaborating with highly respected academic and medical institutions to evaluate our programs and services that support the triple aim: improving patient experience, improving population health and reducing healthcare costs,” said Dr. Leider.
While the entrance of a retail participant is not as common in the research field, it is a twist on the successful relationship model between academia and for-profit companies to aid patients. For example, big pharma Novartis just announced the first large-scale research study that allows patients to enter real-time symptoms and condition data using smartphones. The company is working with the Providence Multiple Sclerosis Center in Portland, Oregon on the project.
Dr. Leider cited a couple of similar examples of the success of their sponsored studies.
In a 2016 publication in Population Health Management, Walgreens new-to-therapy patients had 3% higher adherence and 3% lower overall costs compared to non-Walgreens patients. In another study, presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference, patients with cystic fibrosis participating in a pharmacy-led program demonstrated 20% greater adherence to their medications. These patients also had half as many emergency room visits as those who did not participate in the program.
Walgreens works with well-known academic medical institutions on its research. These include: Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; the Scripps Translational Science Institute; the UCSF School of Pharmacy; and the University of Chicago Medicine.
“Our collaborations with Walgreens have been a successful team effort and have spawned future collaborations,” Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, vice chair of Clinical Innovation and professor of Pharmacy in the School of Pharmacy at UCSF, told CenterWatch. “They offer a unique dataset and perspective on health which can be complementary to other research efforts.”
It’s perhaps no surprise that Walgreens entered the outcomes study arena. According to the company, it interacts with 10 million customers a day at more than 8,000 locations in all 50 states D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This article was reprinted from Volume 21, Issue 34, of CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »