Walgreen Co. has expanded its relationship with pharmacy benefit manager OptumRx and ended its lawsuit with PBM Express Scripts Inc.

Walgreens, OptumRx, Express Scripts, pharmacy benefit manager, PBM, multiyear agreement, lawsuit, pharmacy services, prescription drug benefit plans, drug chain, drug stores, Kermit Crawford, Dirk McMahon, UnitedHealth, pharmacy network, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, pharmacy agreement, Medco, contract impasse, legal dispute

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Walgreens grows its relationship with OptumRx, ends suit with Express Scripts

June 4th, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. has expanded its relationship with pharmacy benefit manager OptumRx and ended its lawsuit with PBM Express Scripts Inc.

Walgreens said Monday that under an extended, multiyear agreement, the drug chain "will build on its strategic partnership with OptumRx, one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers in the United States."

The pact provides "continued, long-term access to Walgreens pharmacy services" at the chain's more than 7,800 drug stores nationwide for members of prescription drug benefit plans managed by OptumRx, according to Walgreens.

"Walgreens offers both the pharmacy and overall health care value sought by PBMs like OptumRx who are developing differentiated member services and benefits for their clients," Kermit Crawford, president of pharmacy, health and wellness at Walgreens, said in a statement. "We help drive down total health care costs through our industry-leading generic dispensing and conversion rates and our broad range of additional clinical services and advice that help improve patient care and health outcomes. We are pleased that OptumRx recognizes the service and value we bring to its clients."

The companies didn't disclose terms or other details of the agreement.

"This is a great opportunity to ensure our current and prospective customers have a broad range of options, including access to premier retail outlets like Walgreens, to help meet their health care needs," stated Dirk McMahon, chief executive officer of Irvine, Calif.-based OptumRx, a UnitedHealth Group company. "Walgreens and OptumRx share a commitment to quality, safety and affordability for all our customers."

Late Friday, Walgreens announced that it and Express Scripts have agreed to drop claims in a legal dispute that began last September, several months after the drug chain announced it would exit the PBM's pharmacy network on Jan. 1, 2012, because of a contract impasse. Walgreens noted that the dismissal of claims has no bearing on the contract stand-off.

Express Scripts had filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to stop Walgreens from communicating with the PBM's plan members. It claimed the drug chain was providing false information and trying to urge members to leave the plan. Walgreens had said it was simply informing plan members of their options if the chain and Express Scripts were unable to resolve their contract dispute.

"The parties have agreed to dismiss their respective claims, and no other action has been or will be taken by either party with respect to this case," Walgreens said in a statement released Monday. "These dismissals have no impact on the parties' ability or inability to come to terms on a pharmacy agreement. The parties and their counsel will have no further comment on this matter."

Express Scripts recently completed its $29 billion merger deal with Medco Health Solutions Inc., which combined the nation's No. 2 (Express Scripts) and No. 3 (Medco) PBMs. The merged PBM controls about one third of the market in terms of prescription volume, followed by CVS Caremark Corp. (20% market share) Argus Health Systems (13%) and OptumRx (12%).