Walgreens' bottom line: 'No. 1 priority is to take care of the patients'

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — It's been a big week for Walgreens. Following its exit from Express Scripts' pharmacy network, the pharmacy retailer introduced a new program to help patients either keep their pharmacy home at Walgreens or to help transition them to a new pharmacy. Why help transition customers to the competition? Because it's the right thing to do. As Greg Wasson told DSN editor Rob Eder in an exclusive interview, "our No. 1 priority is to take care of patients."

(THE NEWS: Walgreens releases patient-level strategy to either keep or help transition ESI prescriptions. For the full story, click here. To listen to DSN's exclusive interview with Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and CEO, click here.)

That's quite a contrast from Express Scripts CEO George Paz, who stated during a recent Senate hearing, "You know, I can't stop certain pharmacies from going out of business." Paz and Express Scripts have a priority-driven edict, only one would imagine Paz might say something along the lines of: "Our No. 1 priority is to take care of our customer's patients, you know, in the event those patients want to take advantage of the 90-day prescriptions we offer through mail order, then we can help transition those patients to the pharmacy services we provide in place of directing them to our customer." To be perfectly fair, however, we don't know what Paz would say as he declined to be interviewed by Drug Store News.

Walgreens' worst day, in terms of its Express Scripts squabbles, is behind them. That was Jan. 1, when the most patients Walgreens could lose actually were lost. From here, it's a matter of recapturing any lost business, either one patient at a time through programs like Walgreens' discount prescription drug program, or one employer/healthcare payer at a time — Wasson suggested a lot of employers plan to sign with a PBM that includes Walgreens in its network as soon as they are contractually able to do so.

And by the looks of it, employers and healthcare payers aren't the only ones who want the choice of Walgreens in their prescription drug network. In the first week of January, RetireSafe, a lobbying group representing seniors sent a letter to Express Scripts urging "Express Scripts to put the health and safety of retired Americans first and to return swiftly to contract negotiations with Walgreens." It was not disclosed whether RetireSafe employees are covered through Express Scripts, but many of the association's constituents are.

Of interest, if you look through the board of directors on RetireSafe's website you'll find Charles Partridge, government relations director of the American Military Society, an association representing active-duty and retired members of the armed forces. Partridge also is a member of the Department of Defense TRICARE Beneficiary Advisory Committee. TRICARE represents a significant portion of the Express Scripts prescription plan business.

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