PHARMACY

Walgreens positioning to win without Express Scripts

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Walgreens is running the ball straight down the middle of the field in its bid to mitigate any lost Express Scripts prescriptions once the retailer is removed from that benefit manager’s pharmacy network at the end of the year — and that seems increasingly likely with each passing day. And if Walgreens achieves 97% to 99% of its 2011 prescription volume of 819 million prescriptons next year, as the pharmacy retailer maintains, then it will be the Chicago-based Walgreens doing an end-zone shuffle of sorts by the end of next year.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens breaks down Express Scripts business in 8-K filing. For the full story, click here.)

In conjunction with that 8-K filing last week, Walgreens and three pharmacy benefit manager partners hit the turf with an ad campaign letting employers know what the impact a pharmacy network with one of the largest pharmacy operators sitting the bench would have — their employees may face disruptions in pharmacy care and, in some cases, "employers without Walgreens in their pharmacy network could end up paying higher overall medical costs."

And earlier in the month, PMSI announced Walgreens would continue to be a critical part of that PBM’s pharmacy network. At least as far as Express Scripts’ competition goes, having Walgreens be a part of their pharmacy networks is becoming a key point of differentiation, especially for those employers that are shopping PBM’s right now.

For those employers, Walgreens put on the record that most healthcare payers are willing to pay out a fair reimbursement (i.e., a reimbursement that exceeds acquisition and adjudication costs) in an effort to keep Walgreens in the pharmacy network mix. The general gist of the 8-K document suggests those payers who can keep Walgreens in the fold are keeping Walgreens in the fold, and those who can’t on account of Express Scripts’ contract restrictions still want to keep Walgreens in the fold.

"Employers, plans and payers recognize that Walgreens delivers significant value to pharmacy benefit plans by providing patients with convenience, choice, customer service and low-cost prescriptions," the chain stated. "Our competitive rates, combined with our superior performance on generics, 90-day at retail and other health services, create significant value for consumers, employers and health plans." Patients who visit Walgreens are offered more than a bag of pills and medical reading material; they can avail themselves of "flu shots, health testing, coordinated wellness care, work-site health centers and medication adherence assistance that help patients get well and stay well, and keep employees on the job."

The Walgreens/Express Scripts break down in contract negotiations may have placed some pressure on Express Scripts in finalizing its merger with Medco, especially since completion of that mega-merger could be a game-changer in Express Scripts favor. Express Scripts recently reduced the termination fee — the fee either party would have to pay the other if they walked away from the deal. According to analysts, that may have been done to tamp critics of the deal who have been complaining that Medco is selling itself too cheaply to Express Scripts.

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PHARMACY

For pharmacy retailers, fresh food offering is all about convenience

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Going fresh has emerged as one of the biggest trends in the retail pharmacy business, but due to various limitations — including smaller store size and disproportionate space devoted to such traditional categories as over-the-counter medicines and beauty — fresh food generally has meant such items as salads and fresh fruit.

(THE NEWS: Report: Smart Butcher vending machine offers fresh meat. For the full story, click here)

But such vending machines as the Smart Butcher greatly expand the realm of possibility for the kinds of fresh foods that drug stores can sell. It may not offer the same ability to browse different cuts that a supermarket meat section does, or the personal touch of the neighborhood butcher shop, but it does offer a new dimension of convenience: A customer in a hurry to get home and cook dinner can walk up to the machine, enter the desired cut, swipe a card and be on his or her way, maybe grabbing some frozen vegetables from the freezer on the way out.

Ultimately, that kind of convenience is what pharmacy retailers are all about these days, and it’s why so many of them are getting into fresh food in the first place.

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Catalina Health addresses medication nonadherence with Health Consumer Journey

BY Allison Cerra

ST PETERSBURG, Fla. — A division of Catalina Marketing has introduced a healthcare solution designed to drive medication adherence and create healthier outcomes for patients.

Catalina Health said its Health Consumer Journey turns in-depth insights — gathered from its privacy protected, proprietary pharmacy databases — into personalized patient education that is clinically and emotionally relevant, and delivers it to health consumers where they need it most — right at the pharmacy point-of-care, the company said.

“You can’t incite change unless you know what’s preventing adherence on an individual basis,” Catalina Health president Renee Selman said. “The Health Consumer Journey is reinventing the way we help drive adherence by understanding each patient is on a different health journey, examining their unique emotional drivers, and crafting meaningful messaging that resonates and motivates the individual health consumer.”


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