PHARMACY

Rx contracts between drug stores, big businesses is a win-win

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT There’s more than one way to help employers desperate to cut their health plan costs.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens pursuing Rx contract with Delta Air Lines, report says. For the full story, click here)

That’s the message inherent in Walgreens’ accelerating Pharmacy Management Excellence program. The service, which first gained widespread recognition last fall when Walgreens struck a far-reaching direct pharmacy service contract with heavy equipment maker Caterpillar, provides transparent prescription drug pricing and discounts to employers that offer prescription benefits to their employees, dependents and retirees.

As reported this week, Walgreens is pursuing a similar course with another major employer, Delta Air Lines, and is in talks with other companies, according to company spokesperson Tiffani Washington.

The direct approach highlights Walgreens’ emerging health care strategy: to align itself directly with payers as an agile, full-service solution and cost-saver. Pharmacy Management Excellence bypasses the traditional relationship between employer-sponsored health plans and the pharmacy benefit management companies that market themselves as a cost-effective link between plans and pharmacy providers.

Walgreens’ expanding outreach to employers — and its obvious determination to offer them an alternative to the traditional pharmacy provider contract between employer-based health plan sponsors and pharmacy benefit management companies — marks a clear point of competitive difference between the company and its top drug store rival, CVS Caremark. Walgreens’ leaders have concluded that the CVS Caremark model — which combines the scale of a massive, 7,000-plus drug store network with the market-moving power of a top-tier PBM — is not the only way to align community pharmacy with the goals of the managed care system. Nor is it the only way to serve the health plan payers who use that system to manage their employees’ health benefits and costs.

Whichever approach employers choose, the search for tools to bend the healthcare cost curve is becoming increasingly urgent, according to a new survey from CVS Caremark. This week, the company reported that more than 9-out-of-10 employers polled by the company said they would look for ways to cut their employees’ drug costs in 2010. Indeed, 2-out-of-3 companies told researchers that “reducing overall healthcare costs is their No. 1 success measure,” according to Jack Bruner, EVP strategic development for Caremark Pharmacy Services.

As reported by Drug Store News senior editor Antoinette Alexander March 11, the survey points up plenty of angst among health plan payers already reeling from the dismal economy and the increasing health-cost burden. “Employers tell us they are looking for more aggressive solutions to increase generic utilization and manage specialty pharmacy costs, while also focusing on programs to increase medication adherence and manage chronic diseases,” Bruner said.

 

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Kinney Drugs offering free glucose testing to customers

BY Alaric DeArment

GOUVERNEUR, N.Y. Kinney Drugs will offer free glucose testing at its stores in Vermont under a partnership with six local hospitals, the regional retail pharmacy chain announced Thursday.

All of Kinney’s stores in Vermont will have a diabetes clinic on March 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The clinic includes a test to determine whether customers are at risk, a finger-stick blood glucose test and diabetes education. Customers also will receive free samples and a “How to Live Well with Diabetes” booklet from the Vermont Health Department.

“We are very grateful for the relationship we have with our local community health agencies,” Kinney marketing manager Penny Perrone-Gray said. “Combined with their expertise in the diabetes field and our pharmacists’ medication knowledge, the program will be very informational to those who may be at risk of developing diabetes.”

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Berry awarded NACDS Congressional Leadership Award

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON During the National Association of Chain Drug Stores 2nd Annual RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill, NACDS honored Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., with the NACDS Congressional Leadership Award for his strong commitment and lifetime support of pharmacy.

As the only licensed pharmacist in the United States Congress, Rep. Berry has been a champion for pharmacy’s healthcare priorities, from Medicaid average manufacturer price reform to preserving seniors’ access to durable medical equipment such as diabetes testing supplies from neighborhood pharmacies, NACDS said Thursday.

“As over 250 pharmacy advocates descend on Washington, D.C., for RxIMPACT Day to meet with their respective Members of Congress to advance pharmacy’s priorities, it is only fitting we recognize one of our most vocal advocates in Congress –– Representative Marion Berry,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson. “It is an honor to spotlight one of pharmacy’s true allies on Capitol Hill. Rep. Berry’s commitment, leadership and voice will be missed by pharmacy and by all who are concerned about healthcare delivery.”

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