DEERFIELD, Ill., December 30, 2011 - Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) (NASDAQ: WAG) today unveiled a comprehensive national effort to help patients who are covered by an Express Scripts, Inc., pharmacy network to continue using Walgreens when possible or to make a smooth transition to another community pharmacy. The plan seeks to minimize patient disruption and inconvenience when Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), ceases in-network coverage of prescriptions filled at Walgreens on Jan. 1, 2012. Walgreens Patient Transition Plan will assist Express Scripts members who depend on the chain’s more than 7,800 pharmacies after the PBM rejected Walgreens offer to reach a negotiated agreement before the existing contract expires on Dec. 31, 2011.
“In recent days, we are hearing more and more from our customers and patients that they are upset about losing access to Walgreens pharmacies as a result of Express Scripts’ actions,” said Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson. “Our pharmacy patients have come to depend on their longstanding, personal relationships with their trusted Walgreens pharmacists, and they don’t want to give that up. Because of the trust they have in their Walgreens pharmacist, many patients are asking us about ways that they can continue accessing our pharmacy, health and wellness services. As a result, we are undertaking a comprehensive plan to continue serving our patients when possible, and in other cases help them make a smooth transition and minimize the disruption and inconvenience they may face.”
The Walgreens plan for Express Scripts members is designed to help patients during this transition period and includes a special discount during January on the annual membership fee for the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club that offers savings on more than 8,000 brand name and all generic medications. Walgreens also is providing additional pharmacist and staff consultations, more than 3.9 million letters to patients that are also available in stores, targeted communications with high-volume patients, additional call center staffing and information at 1-800-Walgreens, and information on the company’s website, Walgreens.com. The plan also includes communications with employers and health plans to help them inform their members of the Express Scripts situation and their choices. In addition, Walgreens is providing coupons for discounted health and wellness products and gift cards to eligible Express Scripts members.
“This disruption to pharmacy patients is especially troubling because it could have been avoided,” Walgreens President of Pharmacy, Health and Wellness Solutions and Services Kermit Crawford added. “In the middle of December we made another serious attempt to reach an agreement before Jan. 1 with an offer that included concessions to avoid patient disruption. Unfortunately, the response we received was not meaningful and their proposal to push negotiations into the new year has placed patients in this unfortunate position.”
In addition, Crawford said, “We do not believe that there will be any meaningful cost savings to justify this needless hardship to patients, since we offered to keep rates flat and Express Scripts itself has stated that the elimination of Walgreens from its pharmacy network will not provide any reduction in costs for clients. As the saying goes, it’s all pain with no gain.”
Walgreens said it will continue to work closely with employers, health plans and mid-tier PBMs that wish to maintain access to the company’s pharmacies and expanding health and wellness services. To date, more than 120 Express Scripts clients have informed Walgreens that they have either switched to a different PBM or taken other steps, consistent with their contracts, to maintain access to Walgreens pharmacies in 2012.
The company’s discussions with employers and health plans make clear they place a significant value on having Walgreens in their pharmacy benefit networks and would not accept losing access to Walgreens without meaningful cost concessions from their PBM to compensate for the loss of pharmacy convenience, choice and service. According to a recent Walgreens survey, more than 80 percent of employers said they would not exclude Walgreens from their network for less than 5 percent savings on their total pharmacy costs; 60 percent of employers said they would not exclude Walgreens for less than 10 percent savings; and 21 percent would not exclude Walgreens from their network regardless of the savings.
Walgreens patient transition plan for Express Scripts members includes several elements:
- Providing additional patient information and guidance through the company website, Walgreens.com
- Increasing staff at the company’s 1-800-Walgreens call center to help patients with information and guidance with the transition
- Making pharmacy computer system changes to support transferring multiple prescriptions at once
- Where allowed by states, providing a website to allow other pharmacies to electronically communicate a patient’s transfer request to Walgreens
- Supporting some of Walgreens higher-impacted locations by a centralized call center to handle transfer requests
- Making Walgreens pharmacists and staff available to spend quality time with patients to discuss their options
Walgreens (www.walgreens.com) is the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2011 sales of $72 billion. The company operates 7,811 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Each day, Walgreens provides nearly 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.