PHARMACY

Walgreens wins exclusive pharmacy contract with Blues’ PBM division, Prime Therapeutics

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. In a significant coup that underscores its increasing leverage as a powerful national pharmacy retailer, Walgreens revealed today it has won a contract to be the exclusive specialty pharmacy provider for Prime Therapeutics. The two companies signed a multi-year contract, under which Walgreens will provide the service through its Pittsburgh-based Medmark, specialty pharmacy division.

What sets the deal apart is its scale. Based in St. Paul, Minn., Prime Therapeutics is a pharmacy benefit manager collectively owned by 10 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those plans. The contract serves specialty pharmacy users among more than 20 million health plan members.

“While we can’t predict the exact value of this contract, the annual specialty pharmacy spending by Prime’s total client base is significant,” said Stanley Blaylock, president of Walgreens Health Services. “Our partnership with Prime gives us the opportunity to manage specialty pharmaceuticals that are covered under both the medical and pharmacy benefit.

“We believe many if not most of those plans will use our services through Prime over time,” Blaylock continued. “We also believe our independence from the major PBMs was a significant factor in winning Prime’s business and will help us consistently win other contracts over the long term.”

Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and chief operating officer, concurred. “We believe our independence as a pharmacy services provider unattached to a major PBM helped us win Prime’s business,” he said. “It’s just one example of the tremendous opportunities we’re pursuing across specialty pharmacy, long-term care, mail service pharmacy and health care access points beyond traditional pharmacy.”

The services provided by Medmark will be part of Prime’s new Triessent specialty pharmacy program. Medmark, acquired by Walgreens in 2006, will serve Prime’s members through central-fill facilities that are supported by Walgreens’ local retail and home care locations.

“Prime believes the complexity of specialty pharmacy is too important to simply outsource,” said Tom Solberg, assistant vice president of specialty pharmacy at Prime. “Medmark’s proven track record complements Prime’s existing core capabilities in specialty and pharmacy benefit management and will allow Prime to offer a complete specialty pharmacy program through Triessent.”

John Heinbockel, a retail analyst with Goldman Sachs, seemed to embrace the marriage of Walgreens and Prime. “This contract validates, to a degree, Walgreens’ capabilities” as a highly efficient pharmacy provider, he noted in a report today.

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Canada court blocks sale of generic form of Lipitor

BY Diana Alickaj

NEW YORK Canada’s appeals court ruled in favor of Pfizer not allowing Ranbaxy Labs to produce the generic version of the drug Lipitor, according to published reports.

The decision overturned a ruling made by lower courts that stated that the patent could not prohibit Ranbaxy from selling a cheaper version of Lipitor (atorvastin calcium), which is used to fight cholesterol.

The appeals court of Canada decided that Ranbaxy could manufacture its product as soon as Pfizer’s product expires in 2010, which leads many to believe that this decision will push Ranbaxy to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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McCain’s healthcare plan suggests a loss for pharmaceutical companies

BY Diana Alickaj

WASHINGTON John McCain’s healthcare plan, with a call to purchase drugs in Canada, may cost American pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars, according to published reports.

According to McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, “The problem is not that most Americans lack adequate health insurance, the biggest problem with the American healthcare system is that it costs too much.”

McCain’s health policy would allow citizens to purchase medicines legally from Canada, which would make them more affordable for the reported 47 million Americans that don’t have health coverage.

According to published reports, such drugs as Pfizer’s Lipitor, known as the world’s biggest selling drug, costs $60.78 for a 30-day supply of 20 mg pills on CanadaDrugs.com, whereas Drugstore.com in the U.S. sells the same pill in the same amount for $119.99.

The new policy is predicted to cost drug makers—like Pfizer—about $40 billion over 10 years, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office.

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