CVS Health's time as a clinical trials operator is coming to a close three years after the company ventured into medical research.
The company began its collaboration with pharmaceutical companies in 2021 and will shut it down at the end of 2024. To date, CVS Health has worked with more than 30 drugmakers on 50 phase I, II and IV studies involving 33,000 participants.
The clinical trial division is not aligned with CVS Health's long-term strategy, a spokesperson wrote in an email Monday. The company declined to make an executive available for an interview.
“We’ll work with our trial sponsors to ensure a smooth transition, as well as continuity of care and minimal disruption for patients,” the spokesperson wrote. “We’re working to support impacted colleagues, and will provide career transition support for those unable to find another role within CVS Health.”
CVS Health reported an 8.7% decline in net income to $2.1 billion during the first quarter. Revenue rose 11% but costs related to its acquisitions of Signify Health and Oak Street Health dinged quarterly profits, and the company revised down its profit projections for the full year. CVS Health shares opened at $68.58 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, down 36% from the $107.26 52-week high on Aug 16, 2022.
The demise of the CVS Health initiative will eliminate a potentially useful means of connecting patients, especially from underrepresented populations, to research, said Yasmeen Long, director of FasterCures at the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. “The whole point of it was to have clinical trials more accessible to certain communities,” she said.
The clinical trials division likely didn’t lure enough customers to CVS drugstores and study participation may have been below expectations, said Duane Wright, senior research analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “The synergies just weren't there. CVS does all these other things and doing clinical research probably just didn't fit well with the overall model,” he said.
CVS Health built the research operation atop its care delivery and COVID-19 vaccination programs and billed it as a way to make initiating trials and recruiting patients more efficient. The company anticipated its pharmacies and clinics would serve as sources for trial participants, especially those from underrepresented communities.
Competitors such as Walgreens, Walmart and Kroger also waded into clinical research after the pandemic began. Walgreens plans to continue its clinical trials division, Chief Clinical Trials Officer Ramita Tandon said. “We expect to grow fast and furious,” she said. Walmart and Kroger did not respond to requests for comment.