Walgreens wins exclusive pharmacy contract with Blues’ PBM division, Prime Therapeutics

DEERFIELD, Ill. In a significant coup that underscores its increasing leverage as a powerful national pharmacy retailer, Walgreens revealed today it has won a contract to be the exclusive specialty pharmacy provider for Prime Therapeutics. The two companies signed a multi-year contract, under which Walgreens will provide the service through its Pittsburgh-based Medmark, specialty pharmacy division.

What sets the deal apart is its scale. Based in St. Paul, Minn., Prime Therapeutics is a pharmacy benefit manager collectively owned by 10 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those plans. The contract serves specialty pharmacy users among more than 20 million health plan members.

“While we can’t predict the exact value of this contract, the annual specialty pharmacy spending by Prime’s total client base is significant,” said Stanley Blaylock, president of Walgreens Health Services. “Our partnership with Prime gives us the opportunity to manage specialty pharmaceuticals that are covered under both the medical and pharmacy benefit.

“We believe many if not most of those plans will use our services through Prime over time,” Blaylock continued. “We also believe our independence from the major PBMs was a significant factor in winning Prime’s business and will help us consistently win other contracts over the long term.”

Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and chief operating officer, concurred. “We believe our independence as a pharmacy services provider unattached to a major PBM helped us win Prime’s business,” he said. “It’s just one example of the tremendous opportunities we’re pursuing across specialty pharmacy, long-term care, mail service pharmacy and health care access points beyond traditional pharmacy.”

The services provided by Medmark will be part of Prime’s new Triessent specialty pharmacy program. Medmark, acquired by Walgreens in 2006, will serve Prime’s members through central-fill facilities that are supported by Walgreens’ local retail and home care locations.

“Prime believes the complexity of specialty pharmacy is too important to simply outsource,” said Tom Solberg, assistant vice president of specialty pharmacy at Prime. “Medmark’s proven track record complements Prime’s existing core capabilities in specialty and pharmacy benefit management and will allow Prime to offer a complete specialty pharmacy program through Triessent.”

John Heinbockel, a retail analyst with Goldman Sachs, seemed to embrace the marriage of Walgreens and Prime. “This contract validates, to a degree, Walgreens’ capabilities” as a highly efficient pharmacy provider, he noted in a report today.

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