CVS is closing down its clinical trials unit two years after its launch to focus on its core operations, the pharmacy chain operator confirmed to Healthcare Dive.
The company plans to wind down the business in phases, with a full exit by December 2024, according to a spokesperson.
CVS unveiled its clinical trials unit in May 2021 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to support clinical trials for vaccines and treatments for the virus. Other pharmacy giants followed closely, with Walgreens and Walmart launching their own health research institutes in the summer and fall of 2022, respectively. Most recently, Kroger opened a clinical trial site network in January.
The companies say their nationwide infrastructure and reams of patient data allow them to connect with a broad swath of patients, helping pharmaceutical companies to reach a larger and more diverse patient pool. As a result, drugmakers can fill trials more quickly with targeted recruitment campaigns and save cost overall, while ameliorating the long-running problem of bias in trial populations.
Currently, a majority of clinical trials fail to meet the enrollment target and timeline.
CVS’ clinical trials business incorporates data on more than 100 million CVS patients. It is currently recruiting patients for five active trials, including around narcolepsy, rheumatoid arthritis and kidney health, according to its website.
However, CVS has yet to disclose publicly whether the business has been financially successful. The spokesperson did not respond to questions on the unit’s profitability.
Now, the Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based healthcare giant is closing its clinical trials services division, citing the need to align existing businesses with its larger corporate strategy. Over the past few years, CVS has largely focused on building a vertically integrated healthcare business through targeted acquisitions in the primary care and home health spaces.
CVS is currently undertaking a number of large-scale M&A integrations, including its $10.6 billion acquisition of primary care company Oak Street Health and its $8 billion buy of home care provider Signify Health. The acquisitions and related costs have depressed CVS’ financial outlook for 2023.
“We continually evaluate our portfolio of assets to ensure they are aligned with our long-term strategic priorities,” a spokesperson told Healthcare Dive.
CVS plans to work with its trial sponsors “to ensure a smooth transition” along with continuity of care for patients, the spokesperson said. CVS will also provide career transition support for current clinical trials employees who can’t find another role within CVS.