Clinical trials are vital to advancing medical research, but because they’re usually conducted in laboratories, it’s almost impossible to get everyday people involved, and this can skew the results. However, a new collaboration between clinical researchers at ObvioHealth and Australian pharmacy chain Chemist Warehouse promises to bring clinical trials to a wider audience: Chemist Warehouse’s 500,000 daily shoppers. The organisations are working together to showcase potential trials i
ials in Chemist Warehouse stores, as well as through online and traditional marketing channels, to increase participation levels. Clinical trials are generally used to test new treatment options, as well as compare new options to more established ones. Additionally, they can be used to observe how people respond to other factors, such as dietary changes. They are not limited to pharmacological options, but could also involve therapeutic, medical or surgical options. Chemist Warehouse will use its telehealth services to allow people to join trials remotely with the aim of increasing participation. According to Chemist Warehouse founder Jack Gance, the most challenging part of clinical trials is recruiting participants, and he believes many Chemist Warehouse customers would be interested if only they knew the trials were happening – and if it was easy. “A very low number of healthcare patients participate in clinical trials, primarily because people don’t have access to them, or are not aware of them,” Gance explained to Inside Retail. “When they are made aware, they still may not sign up – even if they think the trial may benefit them – because trial protocols require a lot of travel to clinics, and it can be too burdensome.” This is where Chemist Warehouisse’s telehealth service can shine – reducing the need for trial participants to travel for all visits. Certain trials will still require in-clinic visitation, but the need for travel will be reduced. ObvioHealth’s chief executive Ivan Jarry told Inside Retail that there are few restrictions on the types of trials the organisation can recruit for alongside Chemist Warehouse. And that should help to get more people involved, and, therefore, create better medical outcomes. “Recruitment consumes more time and resources than any other aspect of a clinical trial, and yet, approximately 11 per cent of clinical sites fail to enrol a single participant,” Jarry said. “This partnership allows us to reach a broader pool of potential participants.” Subject to regulatory approval, Chemist Warehouse will advertise trials through in-store signage, on receipts as a QR code, as well as through consultation with on-site pharmacists. Gance also said the business could publicise and educate the public on available trials using its website, as well as through ads in magazines or on television. “We can help pharmaceutical companies recruit for any kind of trial because we have contact with patients that deal with all types of conditions and diseases,” he said. “Easier access can lead to faster enrollment in clinical trials, which accelerates the pace of medical research and the development of new treatments. It also gives more patients access to potentially life-improving or innovative treatments that are not yet available on the market.” Focus on health and wellness The partnership is part of a broader effort by Chemist Warehouse to expand how it can offer customers better health and wellness outcomes. Last year, the business launched its online marketplace offering in partnership with Marketplacer, as well as a ‘hospital pharmacy’ offering aiming at delivering more complex treatment plans for customers than a traditional pharmacy can handle. Additionally, the brand launched its own beauty arm, Ultra Beauty, with the aim of delivering premium beauty products to its more general consumer audience, as well as its disruptor optometry chain Optometrist Warehouse. The goal, according to Ultra Beauty’s head of e-commerce and digital experience Nick Blatt, is for Chemist Warehouse to be able to broaden its range, and to be known not only for its pharmacy, but as a destination for health, beauty and fitness brands as well. “We really want to be the destination for health, wellness, beauty, as well as over-the-counter pharmacy related items. We want it to be a one-stop-shop,” Blatt told Inside Retail last year.