Minority clinical trials are key to Walmart’s effort

Walmart Inc.’s latest dive into healthcare is reaching out to underrepresented populations to include them in clinical trials.

The Bentonville-based retailer said on Tuesday that its health care research institute Walmart is focused on sharing information about new treatments and drugs with the communities that would benefit most, but have too often been excluded from it. these studies.

Working since April with study partners such as clinical research organizations, pharmaceutical companies and academic medical centers, Walmart’s research institute has already referred three times the usual number of participants to various clinical trials, said the company in a press release.

Clinical trials have historically not represented the general population.

Food and Drug Administration data for 2020 shows that 75% of trial participants that year were white; 11% were Hispanic; 8% were black; and 6% were Asian.

Charles D. Henderson, chief executive of the American Diabetes Association, said those most affected by the disease are often excluded from research because they don’t live near research centers or don’t have the time or the financial capacity to participate in the trials.

The same is true for people affected by other conditions, especially the elderly, rural residents, women and minority populations.

The premise behind starting the institute was Walmart’s strong relationships in its communities and a high level of trust, said the company’s medical director, Dr. John Wigneswaran.

Walmart’s approach in these communities is that it doesn’t do hundreds of thousands of studies, but rather “specific studies and diseases that might be more appropriate for a specific patient because they may have that condition.” or have a family member who has this condition,” Wigneswaran said.

“So when we reach out to someone,” he said, “the language we use is very clear about ‘do you know there was an important drug that’s being studied in a condition you have that could be really important to you? do you like to hear about it? »

“Winning for us is not just the ability to potentially recruit someone,” Wigneswaran said, “but during this encounter we are able to talk to this patient about this issue or this understanding of the health literacy, and that might actually advance another aspect of care that might be something within pharmacy.”

“So it’s not research like you usually think of it,” Wigneswaran said. “It’s really a kind of community engagement.”

Referring people for clinical trials is the first step for the Walmart Healthcare Research Institute.

A future step could allow people taking a study drug to go to a store pharmacy to get their dose, Wigneswaran said.

With 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart, the company said, more people could easily take part in the various trials.

Walmart has created a website for the public called My Health Journey, which includes information on how to participate in the trials.

“By volunteering to participate in My Health Journey, you will receive information about health care research studies and have the opportunity to participate in research to answer some of the most pressing health questions,” Walmart says. on the website.

For more information about My Health Journey and opportunities to participate in studies, visit https://www.walmarthealthcareresearchinstitute.com/myhealthresearch.

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