Continuing its efforts to retain business during the contract impasse with Express Scripts Inc., Walgreen Co. reported a record number of signups for its Prescription Savings Club.

Walgreens, Prescription Savings Club, Express Scripts, drug discount program, prescription drug benefit, contract impasse, contract renewal dispute, Walgreens Patient Transition Plan, Kermit Crawford, community pharmacy, PBMs, pharmacy benefit managers, Walgreens pharmacies, drug chain, pharmacy network

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Customers embrace Rx discount program, Walgreens says

January 9th, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Continuing its efforts to retain business during the contract impasse with Express Scripts Inc., Walgreen Co. reported a record number of signups for its Prescription Savings Club.

Walgreens said Monday that nearly 125,000 customers enrolled in its Prescription Savings Club (PSC) in the first week of the new year, and the drug store chain noted that many pharmacy patients signing up for the drug discount program have prescription drug benefit plans managed by Express Scripts.

As of Jan. 1, Walgreens ended its participation as a provider in the Express Scripts pharmacy network because of a contract renewal dispute.

Last week the chain launched the Walgreens Patient Transition Plan, an initiative designed to help Express Scripts-covered pharmacy patients to continue using Walgreens if possible or easily switch to another community pharmacy. A linchpin of the plan is a special discount being offered during January on the annual membership fee for the Walgreens PSC, which provides savings on more than 8,000 brand-name drugs and all generic medications. For more than 400 generics, Walgreens offers a three-month supply for less than $1 a week.

"Our customers are looking for ways to continue using Walgreens to preserve their relationship with their trusted Walgreens pharmacist," Kermit Crawford, Walgreens' president of pharmacy, health and wellness solutions and services, said in a statement. "They appreciate the access we provide, including 24-hour service and having the medication they need in stock. For many of these medications, especially generics, customers are finding our PSC card is very cost competitive."

The drug chain cited comments from Janet Paz, a Walgreens pharmacy patient in Lowell, Mass., whose insurance is managed by Express Scripts. "Being a patient here for more than 15 years, I was very upset that Express Scripts wouldn't cover my prescriptions filled at Walgreens. To me, it's more than a pharmacy; it's a friendship," Paz said in a statement released by Walgreens. "When my pharmacist took the time to tell me about the Prescription Savings Club, we discovered that I could actually save on medications including one that my plan doesn't even cover. I don't want to be forced to switch to another pharmacy that doesn't know me."

According to Walgreens, some patients with Express Scripts plans are using their spouse's coverage to continue using Walgreens pharmacies. The drug chain added that it's also continuing to work closely with employers, health plans and midtier pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that want to maintain access to the retailer's pharmacies and health wellness services.

More than 120 Express Scripts clients already have informed Walgreens that they have switched to another PBM or taken other steps to maintain access to Walgreens pharmacies in 2012, the drug chain reported. The retailer, too, said it has continued to receive notifications almost daily this year from other companies that are using Express Scripts as their PBM and are seeking ways to continue offering Walgreens services to their beneficiaries. In addition, the chain said some employers are offering to reimburse beneficiaries at out-of-network rates for prescriptions filled at Walgreens as an option to switching pharmacies.

"These companies believe we can help them lower overall health care costs," Crawford added. "In fact, costs may even go up without Walgreens in a pharmacy network because we offer competitive unit pricing, additional savings by dispensing less-expensive generic drugs more often than other pharmacies, and savings through 90-day supplies of medications at our retail pharmacies versus three, 30-day refills."