NEW YORK So, who’s bigger — CVS or Walgreens?
That’s kind of a funny question really, and not just because both companies opened their 7,000 stores within one week of each other. Or, even because, both companies already operate more than 7,000 stores apiece.
It’s because it really doesn’t matter anymore who has the most stores. That’s really only one way to measure these companies; the stores are really just one component of a much bigger health care play.
Think of it as a wheel: the stores are one spoke; the clinics are another; specialty pharmacy, another; mail order, another; for CVS, a huge PBM is another; for Walgreens, a major presence in worksite care and home infusion is another spoke. The stores, in themselves, do not drive the wheel any more than any other single spoke on the wheel. Health care and the delivery of it, is what drives the wheel. And that, ultimately, is how these two companies will come to be measured.
Just listen to what the leadership of these two companies has to say about it. Walgreens talks about leveraging 8,000 points of care. “Our platform for delivering pharmacy and health and wellness services, now extends to 7,000 drug stores, a specialty pharmacy and home infusion network, and worksite health centers and retail clinics,” Wasson said. “With that foundation, we’re taking Walgreens directly to employers, government entities, managed care companies and PBMs.”
Its new deal with Caterpillar, announced in late August, under which Walgreens is providing the company’s beneficiaries with special pricing is a prime example of that, Wasson added. “We are certainly encouraged by the traction this approach is getting in the market,” he said. “Plenty of other companies are talking to us about similar programs because of this compelling offer.”
Meanwhile, “MinuteClinic is a microcosm of what you want in healthcare reform,” explained CVS Caremark chairman, president and CEO Tom Ryan, during a recent earnings call. “It’s accessible, it’s affordable and it’s good quality, which are all things that the administration and Congress were talking about.”
So, who’s bigger? For the record, Walgreens was at 7,042 stores the day it celebrated in Brooklyn. By Monday, CVS will have 7,016 stores.
But if that’s the way you’re keeping scoring, you’re watching the wrong game.