Analyst: CVS’ OptumRx deal amps up competition

December 6, 2016

Last month, OptumRx and CVS Pharmacy announced that they are partnering to provide more convenient choices and lower costs for patients.

In November, OptumRx and CVS Pharmacy announced that they are partnering to provide more convenient choices and lower costs for patients.

OptumRx is UnitedHealth Group’s free-standing pharmacy care services business that manages more than one billion prescriptions annually. Last year, it formed a similar partnership with Walgreens.

Adam J. Fein“The structure of the OptumRx deal amps up retail competition,” wrote Adam J. Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting and CEO of Drug Channels Institute, on DCI’s web site. Now, OptumRx customers will have to choose either Walgreens or CVS as their sole provider for 90-day supplies, according to Fein.

Fein said CVS needed the partnership to gain scale, even thought it sacrifices some retail per-prescription profitability. Over the past five years, the share of 90-day scripts at chain stores has nearly doubled, from 6.5% in 2010 to an estimated 12% in 2015. 

“[Ninety-day] scripts still constitute the majority of mail pharmacy dispensing activity. But, the economic advantage of mail pharmacies is vanishing as payers allow community pharmacies to fill 90-day prescriptions for maintenance medications,” Fein wrote.

The latest deal signals CVS Health’s intention to re-engage with pharmacy benefit managers’ (PBMs) narrow networks, Fein said.

 

“Together, the two companies will offer employers a new pharmacy network solution that provides eligible OptumRx members the option to fill 90-day prescriptions at prices equal to home delivery co-pay levels at CVS locations nationwide or through OptumRx home delivery,” OptumRx and CVS in joint statement.

The new partnership also enables OptumRx and CVS Pharmacy to leverage a shared pharmacy platform to develop new pharmacy and health solutions for clients and consumers.

“Our new strategic relationship with CVS Pharmacy will benefit our clients and consumers by improving access to medications, driving better health outcomes, and reducing costs,” said Mark Thierer, chief executive officer of OptumRx. “By deepening our relationship, we can develop innovations that further modernize and enhance pharmacy care.”