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Now it's proven: specialty pharmacy helps reduce healthcare spend

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — "I appreciate the fact that [Walgreens is] trying to do some very good things with respect to clinical offerings and other avenues to try to impact the overall healthcare spectrum. But quite frankly, that hasn't been proven to reduce cost." That was what George Paz, Express Scripts chairman, president and CEO, said Thursday morning about the go-to-market strategy currently being employed by Walgreens. Later that day, Walgreens released these data — contrary to Paz's take on the value of Walgreens. While the timing of Walgreens' announcement soon after Paz made his remarks might have been serendipitous, the results — that Walgreens is helping to reduce cost with respect to clinical offerings and other avenues — is not the kind of good fortune you come across accidentally.

(THE NEWS: Study: Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy can cut infusion medication costs by more than half. For the full story, click here.)

Bottom line: Specialty pharmacy services are one way retail pharmacy operators can effectively move that healthcare cost needle down, and it's something that pharmacy operators from independents on up to national chains like Walgreens have been doing for a while now.

Specialty pharmacy is an overall healthcare-cost-cutting tool that Walgreens means to keep sharp — just this month, Walgreens announced its proposed acquisition of BioScrip’s community specialty pharmacies and centralized specialty and mail-service pharmacy businesses, all of which will further help grow Walgreens’ ability to leverage its specialty pharmacy division against those rising healthcare costs. According to the company, Walgreens is already the nation’s leading provider of home infusion and No. 3 provider of specialty pharmacy, and the BioScrip acquisition will help to fortify that position.

As another example as to the influence Walgreens can potentially have on cost reduction initiatives through its specialty pharmacy and infusion pharmacy arms, Walgreens’ Medical Injectable Drug Program recently saved a health plan client approximately $28.5 million over a two-year period by facilitating the dispensing of almost 50 injectable pharmaceutical products typically administered in physician offices to the lower-cost option of Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy, Walgreens executives recently told DSN.

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