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    Walgreens-Prime alliance: A new breed pharmacy strategy?


    Walgreens and Prime Therapeutics (Prime), a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), announced a long-term strategic alliance that includes a new retail pharmacy network agreement and the combination of the companies’ central specialty pharmacy and mail service businesses.  

    “This model combines the retail and mail distribution, in-person and remote medication management, specialty pharmacy and PBM along with immediate care clinics for addressing urgent and chronic conditions. What does this mean for pure-play PBMs?” says Joel V. Brill, MD, chief medical office for Predictive Health LLC, a Managed Healthcare Executive editorial advisor.

    The agreement has two parts, according to Prime spokesperson, Karen Lyons:

    1. A retail pharmacy network agreement that will give Prime’s health plan and employer clients access to the preferred Walgreens pharmacy network. “Prime’s 22 million members may also benefit from personalized pharmacy services and cost saving opportunities when filling their prescriptions at Walgreens,” Lyons says. 

    2. A combined central specialty and mail services company, owned by Prime and Walgreens, that is expected to provide operating and purchasing efficiencies on par with industry leaders.   

    “This model is entirely different from what currently exists today,” Lyons says. “This integrates the PBM, with health plans, with drug store retailer. This alliance is a next-generation model that moves scale and integration to an entirely new level. We’re bringing together some of the most experienced and trusted names in healthcare to combat rising drug costs.”

    The existing models include:

    • PBMs that are standalone, not connected to health plans or retail pharmacies.

    • PBMs that combine with a retailer.

    The retail market has seen much consolidation and business alliances between retail chains, specialty pharmacies, PBMs, and drug distributors, says Rick Burnett, PharmD, FACHE, chief operating officer, CompleteRx.

    “But there is a great deal of debate over whether these alliances have been able to lower costs for patients due to the lack of transparency regarding PBMs and the manner in which they price pharmaceuticals,” Burnett says.  

    “We do know that retail chains are trying to increase the health services they provide as the market moves from a model focused on treating acutely ill patients to one focused on preventive health, so it seems the combined data of a retail pharmacy chain, PBM, and specialty pharmacy could be used as part of a health population management strategy to drive care and volumes to pharmacies,” Burnett says.

    Next: Reasons behind the agreement



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