Walgreen pushes to keep Express Scripts clients
DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Walgreen CEO Greg Wasson said Friday chances are probably "slim to none" that the drugstore operator will reach an agreement with pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts before their current contract ends Saturday.
Walgreen Co. announced that it is taking several steps to help patients covered by an Express Scripts pharmacy network to continue to use Walgreen locations after the agreement ends. It expects to keep more than 120 Express Scripts clients, which include employers and health plans.
Walgreen has said it expects about keep about 10 million of the prescriptions it fills for Express Scripts. It filled about 88 million prescriptions in fiscal 2011, so that would amount to a loss of almost 90 percent of the prescriptions.
Express Scripts Inc. pays Walgreen and other drugstore operators to fill prescriptions. The companies have said since June that they were preparing to stop business once their three-year contract ends this year. Walgreen has said it would rather give up the revenue it gets from Express Scripts than continue filling unprofitable prescriptions.
The nation's largest drugstore chain said Friday it has a "patient transition plan" for Express Scripts members, as it tries to keep both businesses and individual customers. That includes increasing staffing at its call center and making computer system changes to help transfer multiple prescriptions at once. It also includes a discount during January on the membership fee for the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club.
Express Scripts had offered to extend contract negotiations into January, but the drugstore chain declined because patient prescriptions still would have been disrupted after the current agreement ended, Wasson said Friday.
"We had reached out with a substantial offer (earlier this month), and the purpose was frankly to just see if there was one last shot or opportunity to prevent the disruption that's going to happen in a couple days," the CEO said, adding that they didn't "get anything meaningful back."
Express Scripts spokesman Brian Henry said the rates Walgreen charges to fill prescriptions are 20 percent higher than other pharmacies in its network, and the companies also disagreed over identifying generic drugs.
"We've been open to having them in the network at rates that are right for our clients," he said.
Shares of Deerfield-based Walgreen fell 16 cents to $33.27 in Friday afternoon trading. Express Scripts, which is based in St. Louis, climbed 61 cents to $44.95. The Dow Jones industrial average was down slightly.