Kroger Health, the healthcare services arm of The Kroger Co., has taken on a new role with the launch of a network of clinical trial sites in select pharmacies and retail clinics.
Kroger Pharmaceuticals Co. and The Little Clinic’s network locations will participate in clinical trials for pharmaceutical industry sponsors, contract research organizations and healthcare systems, Cincinnati-based Kroger said on Tuesday. Kroger’s first trial is already underway, with sites actively recruiting to look at colorectal cancer and immune health in collaboration with Persephone Biosciences, a San Diego-based synthetic biology company that develops microbiome-based drugs.
With 2,200 pharmacies and 226 clinics in 35 states serving more than 17 million customers annually, Kroger Health provides research opportunities “where customers live, work and eat,” Kroger noted. The company said 90% of the US population lives within five miles of a pharmacy and 51% of all Kroger Co. are located in socially vulnerable areas, allowing Kroger Health to engage a broad range of the population in clinical trials.
And that swath of the population could become much larger as Kroger’s pending $24.6 billion deal to acquire Albertsons Cos. would create a food and drug retail giant with 4,996 stores and 3,972 pharmacies.
“With our team of more than 24,000 healthcare professionals, under the umbrella of America’s Grocery Store, we are positioned at the nexus of food and healthcare, offering us the unique opportunity to increase accessibility to clinical trial opportunities,” President of Kroger Health Colleen Lindholz said in a statement. “As a trusted community health care destination, we envision a future where our work transforms the clinical trial landscape and provides expanded access to trials for the people we serve.”
Currently, Kroger Health and Persephone Biosciences are recruiting participants for the Argonaut clinical trial to identify microbiome-based biomarkers for colorectal cancer. Beginning in the Toledo, Ohio area, Kroger Pharmacies and The Little Clinic locations will initially enroll 55 people with a variety of colorectal cancer risk levels to deepen their understanding of gut and immune health. Plans call for Kroger Health to enroll more participants and expand testing sites in the coming year.
The study is based on evidence indicating that bacteria living in the gut can affect a person’s colorectal cancer risk, according to Kroger. Data collected from the study will be used to develop personalized medicines and find cancer-specific indicators that could help guide future treatments and preventive strategies, such as using “food as medicine” or the idea that smarter food choices can promote cancer. better health.
In the Argonaut study, digital tools, virtual care visits and personalized communication will be used to bolster patient retention. Kroger Health’s clinics, dietitians, pharmacy services and relationships with other healthcare organizations will also allow it to provide end-to-end clinical trial management in other preventive and therapeutic areas, the company said.
“Through our collaborations with healthcare systems across the country, we can work with agility to optimize the patient experience to improve healthcare delivery and maintain continuity of care while expanding the frontiers of care and treatment,” according to with Jim Kirby, PharmD, Chief Commercial Officer, Kroger Health. “This is the first of many clinical trial opportunities that will use us as an alternative to the traditional clinical trial model and research organization.”
Kroger Health has previously delved into clinical research. Last April, the company released research that supports its Food as Medicine preventive care approach to boosting customer health and well-being. The Kroger Health-funded study with the University of Cincinnati—Supermarket and Web-Based Intervention Targeting Nutrition (SuperWIN)—found that promoting a heart-healthy diet through nutrition advice from a registered dietitian improved diet quality and reduced cardiovascular risk. Kroger’s Food as Medicine platform is designed to help consumers make more nutritious food choices to promote overall wellness, prevent disease and help people with chronic health conditions.