New hire at Walgreens underscores 'real opportunity'

SVP Berkowitz discusses company's healthcare strategy

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Viewed through an Express Scripts lens, Walgreens' new hire announcement — naming Robyn Peters to group VP managed market sales — may appear timely. The drug store chain is approaching an aggressive marketing overture behind its entire lineup of healthcare proficiency during the first pharmacy benefit manager selling season that it is no longer part of the Express Scripts pharmacy network.

Walgreens' definitely has its timing down, but this has less to do with Express Scripts and more to do with the fact that Walgreens in the past year has streamlined all of its healthcare functionality under one umbrella so that they can proposition one cohesive retail healthcare offering to employers and payers, Walgreens executives told Drug Store News.

"As our healthcare strategy has been evolving … and the healthcare landscape has gotten more complex, we have been thinking long and hard about fully integrating our approach to the payer community, whether that be employers large and small, PBMs — large, medium and small — the health plans segment, the government segment, the health systems segment," said Jeff Berkowitz, Walgreens SVP pharmaceutical development and market access, in an interview following yesterday's announcement. "We have an extraordinary value proposition to put a selling effort behind," he added. That selling proposition is everything from Walgreens' entire "Well" experience — representing the integration of the front-end into that experience across Walgreens' new store designs — to the retailer's multichannel approach (think iPhone, Facebook, etc.). Behind the bench, in addition to a typical retail pharmacy experience (e.g., medication therapy management, healthcare counseling), Walgreens has 90-days-at-retail, a specialty pharmacy model and home infusion capability in several markets. There's also Walgreens' Take Care Health retail clinics and worksite clinics, along with Walgreens' commitment to offering immunization services.

"What this integrated model allows us to do is go to the payer community and not just focus on the 10% or 8% that is the drug spend, but really partner with and focus with them on their entire medical spend and how to lower that," Berkowitz said. "That's the real opportunity here."

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