DIA 2023: Innovating Patient Recruitment Through Pharmacy Channels


Panel at DIA discussed the evolving role of pharmacies in clinical trials.

In this session at DIA, John Campbell, head of decentralized trials, Walgreens began with emphasizing that much of industry does not yet understand the role of pharmacy in clinical trials. While it is an evolving area, the major players involved; Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Korger have made their presence known through providing services such as recruitment, real-world evidence (RWE), and trial conduct.

Campbell continued by addressing the current challenges in patient recruitment: access, representation, and speed. The current recruitment landscape sees two main types of strategies; site-based recruitment, which is performed by site staff on a more local scale. Then there is centralized recruitment, which is performed by a central vendor sending patients to sites. So, where does pharmacy fit in this landscape?

Pharmacy-based recruitment is a type of centralized patient recruitment which involves digital outreach and store-based patient engagement. Industry and government view pharmacies as an important channel for patient engagement. Recent guidance from FDA on decentralized trials specifically mentions the potential of pharmacies in this space.

One of the greatest benefits of utilizing pharmacies is data. They generate many different forms which include prescriptions, electronic-health records (EHR), age, gender, location, retail data, and varying forms of contact information.

When it comes to the process of recruiting patients for pharmacies, it starts with mapping inclusion/exclusion criteria to available data sources and identifying the right patients through targeting communities surrounding the selected sites. Then, a number of channels are utilized for outreach such as email, SMS, apps, social media, and of course, in-store. Depending on the outreach channel, potential study participants are then engaged and prescreened in-store, online, or over the phone. It is at this stage when the patient provides information that could not be gathered through the initial search. Finally, patients are enrolled and it is tracked to analyze future campaigns.

At the end of the session, Campbell was joined by Kendra Taylor, strategic initiatives lead, global product development, Pfizer, and Katie Norton, director, patient recruitment and feasibility, Moderna. The panel discussed various topics including reaching out to healthy patients for involvement in trials, more targeted outreach methods, and diversity.

To wrap up, the panel looked forward to the future of pharmacies in patient recruitment. As this is a relatively new form recruitment, there is awareness of finding the right way to conduct campaigns without over-saturating patients, as there are many different mediums and forms of data available. Pharmacies are also looking at the role of pharmacists in this recruitment process and finding ways for them to be more involved without increasing burden.


Innovating Patient Recruitment Through Pharmacy Channels. June 27, 2023. DIA 2023, Boston.

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