Walgreens’ PBM unit reports savings

NEW YORK Want to get the attention of health plan payers? Tell them you can save them big money on the dollars they’re spending to cover their members’ prescription drug costs.


Like other pharmacy benefit managers, Walgreens Health Initiatives has been arguing for years that its services are a value-add to the healthcare marketplace. WHI has long asserted that its ability to tailor a cost-effective drug treatment program to the needs of employers and other health plan sponsors will reduce overall health expenditures for those payers.



WHI has also made a strong case that its relationship with parent company Walgreens — which operates more than 6,700 pharmacies — provides WHI plan administrators with in-depth knowledge of how to structure a pharmacy benefit program in ways that benefit both payers and patients.



Early this week, WHI backed up those claims with some pretty convincing evidence with the release of its 2009 Trend Report. The report’s conclusions, based on surveys of WHI’s clients and drug utilization data from plan members, showed that an aggressive approach to cost-cutting by a PBM can help both employer-sponsored health plans and patients — particularly when the PBM is allied with a powerful network of retail and specialty pharmacies and in-store and worksite clinics.



By aggressively promoting generic drug substitutions, requiring strict prior-authorization procedures for the most expensive prescriptions, and by initially opting for lower-cost treatment options for patients before stepping up to higher-cost drug therapies, Walgreens’ PBM was able to generate measurable cost savings for its membership-plan clients.



Walgreens is now on a mission to break down the silos within its business and link all its vast health-and-wellness, data-mining and pharmacy resources into a seamless, interactive web of patient care. How that plays out over the next two to three years remains to be seen, but it’s likely the company will generate additional benefits for the health plans it services as it integrates all of its “points of care,” including its retail pharmacies, clinics, home infusion sites and specialty pharmacies.


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