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With Walgreens' and ESI's new deal, September will be about battle for the pharmacy patient

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Prepare to roll up your sleeves, because the battle for the ESI patient has only just begun. While Wall Street is busy calculating the earnings-per-share impact this will have on all relevant parties (Walgreens' stock is still trading up some $3, an approximate 10% increase, since the announcement), the business of pharmacy retailing will return to block and tackle mode. Filling prescriptions across the back-bench may have become a commodity, but that pharmacy patient still holds tremendous value. And beginning Sept. 15, CVS, Rite Aid and all others who captured Walgreens patients out of this dispute will be fighting to keep them while Walgreens makes a concerted effort to win them back.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens, Express Scripts end dispute. For the full story, click here.)

And what does that mean? It means the inherent pharmacy value proposition is going to be hyped by all of the major players to the "nth" degree. Walgreens is launching its loyalty card in September, so the Chicago-based retailer already had planned to kick its marketing up another notch. And Rite Aid already may have something in the works for its very much successful Wellness+ loyalty program — analysts in June attempted to tease out what those plans were during Rite Aid's last conference call, but Rite Aid's John Standley declined to reveal his hand: "We can't give away all of our secrets."

But pharmacy's secret sauce will share many of the same ingredients across all of the chains, including ever-evolving patient interaction/interception programs to help mitigate noncompliance and improve outcomes. There's also immunizations, a healthcare offering that has fast become a staple across retail pharmacy. And now loyalty cards. Between CVS' ExtraCare card, Rite Aid's Wellness+ and Walgreens' yet-to-be-unveiled card that surely will benefit from its recent Alliance Boots relationship, patients will be given a host of reasons to visit their pharmacy come September.

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