Optum Life Sciences, a unit of UnitedHealth Group, said it formed an alliance with Parexel, a Massachusetts-based clinical research company, to tackle cost issues related to clinical trials.

The relationship, announced Thursday, will give Parexel’s researchers access to Optum’s massive cache of electronic health records, cutting down on the amount of information doctors are required to enter for clinical research trials.

In interviews, executives from the companies said that simplified data collection could shorten clinical trial lengths and reduce costs for both researchers and consumers.

“We have a major problem that the cost of generating evidence is up and the amount of evidence required is up,” said Joshua Schultz, corporate vice president and worldwide head for Parexel Access.

To combat the high cost of drug development, Parexel will examine Optum’s health records for medicines in the post-approval study phase.

This data will help expedite the process involved in developing medicines and will provide insurance companies with more data about the effectiveness of different medicines, both of which promise to lower costs for consumers and the companies developing the drugs.

When doctors record data about a patient in a clinical trial, they have to enter the information twice, once in a patient’s health record and again in the clinical trial records, Schultz said. With the new alliance, doctors will only have to record the information once.

Brian Kelly, president of Optum Life Sciences, said hybrid trials, like the ones to be conducted in this alliance, are growing more popular as companies look for new ways to improve clinical trials.


Brian Edwards is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.