Walgreens holds its ground against Express Scripts

February 15, 2012

The dispute between Express Scripts and Walgreens became an official split on January 1, when the 3-year contract between the 2 companies ended.

The dispute between Express Scripts and Walgreens became an official split on January 1, when the 3-year contract between the 2 companies ended. Negotiations had broken down in 2011 after several months of talks. Now, many Walgreens customers whose health insurance plans use Express Scripts as a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) are scrambling for new pharmacies to fill their prescriptions.

Walgreens is sticking with its decision to not renew the contract. "We feel very strongly that what we are doing is the right thing for Walgreens, but also for community pharmacy," said Michael Polzin, a spokesman for the chain. Express Scripts had offered Walgreens a 3-year contract with a reimbursement that was below the industry average cost to provide a prescription, Polzin said. The value that community pharmacies provide patients is not being recognized by Express Scripts, he said.

If Express Scripts had met Walgreens' offer, it would have been the highest cost in Express Scripts' networks, according to Brian Henry, senior director of public affairs for the company. "Our job as a PBM is to drive down the cost of medications and provide broad access," he said.

"We have been focused on letting people know about other choices," Henry said. "Overwhelmingly, our clients have moved on and made the switch to other pharmacies." Express Scripts has 56,000 pharmacies in its network in the United States.