PHARMACY

Express Scripts completes acquisition of WellPoint’s NextRx subsidiaries

BY Allison Cerra

ST. LOUIS An acquisition of a health benefits company’s subsidiaries by a pharmacy benefit manager will integrate services for members of affiliated health plans.

Express Scripts and WellPoint said the closing of Express Scripts’ acquisition of WellPoint’s NextRx subsidiaries includes a 10-year agreement under which Express Scripts, one of the largest pharmacy benefits management companies in North America, will provide pharmacy benefits management services, including home delivery and specialty pharmacy services, to members of the affiliated health plans of WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies. Express Scripts acquired the NextRx subsidiaries for $4.675 billion, which includes consideration for the value of a future tax benefit for Express Scripts based on the structure of the transaction.

“Two industry leaders have aligned in an unprecedented way to promote better health and value for millions of Americans,” said George Paz, Express Scripts chairman and CEO. “At this pivotal moment in American health care, the strategic alliance opens new horizons for improving outcomes for members while driving down overall healthcare costs.”

The two companies will leverage integrated medical and pharmacy data for a more holistic view of members’ health and related behaviors. WellPoint will seek to improve the effectiveness of its unparalleled clinical competencies through the success of Consumerology, Express Scripts’ powerful application of the behavioral sciences to help members make better healthcare decisions. New insights will create potential for innovative programs that seek to drive improved health outcomes and reduce costs.

“The alliance brings new strength to Express Scripts’ and WellPoint’s essential roles in addressing today’s critical health care issues,” said Angela Braly, president and CEO of WellPoint. “As each organization expands the value of its leading health-information technologies, clinical expertise and thought leadership, the alliance will drive innovation in the development and implementation of integrated health benefits.”

Plan sponsors and members will gain from industry-leading programs and shared best practices from both organizations. Healthcare administrators will achieve greater insight into drug trends and usage through Express Scripts’ innovative reporting and modeling tools.

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Senate opens health-reform debate

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON After months of wrangling in committee meetings and weeks spent rounding up support from his Democratic colleagues, Senate majority leader Harry Reid Monday morning gaveled the opening round of what is expected to be weeks of debate on a massive health-reform bill.

Reid was successful last week in rounding up a 60-vote majority to allow the legislation to come before the full Senate for debate. But the bill faces a tough battle in a bitterly partisan fight that could push any chance of passage into next year.

The Reid bill would overhaul the U.S. health system by providing coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, mandating that all Americans have coverage, creating a publicly funded insurance option to compete with private insurance plans and setting up new incentives and processes to promote healthier lifestyles and disease prevention. To help defray the expected cost of the overhaul — estimated to be $848 billion over 10 years — the Senate bill would levy a tax on the highest-value insurance plans dispensed by employers, and create a review system to seek out the most cost-effective treatments and reduce waste and unneeded medical procedures in government-funded health programs.

Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to many of the health-reform measures proposed in the Reid bill. Debate is likely to center on hot-button issues like federal funding for abortions, the public insurance plan option and the taxation of premium health plans.

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FDA approves expanded use of Cymbalta

BY Alaric DeArment

INDIANAPOLIS The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new use for an Eli Lilly & Co. drug.

Lilly announced Monday that the FDA had approved Cymbalta (duloxetine hydrochloride) as a maintenance treatment for generalized anxiety disorder in adults. The drug already had approval for treating major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia.

“Since generalized anxiety disorder can be a chronic illness, it is important that doctors and their patients find a treatment option that is effective in both the acute and maintenance phase of treatment,” Lilly medical director for Cymbalta in the United States James Martinez said in a statement. “With this additional approval, Cymbalta offers a new option for the maintenance treatment of this often-debilitating condition.”

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