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Walgreens wins Prime PBM contract

BY Jim Frederick

DEERFIELD, Ill. —Scale matters.

In a clear sign of its increasing leverage as a powerful national pharmacy retailer, Walgreens has won a contract to be the exclusive specialty pharmacy provider for Prime Therapeutics.

In March, 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 win other contracts over the long term.”

“It’s just one example of the tremendous opportunities we’re pursuing across specialty pharmacy, long-term care, mail service pharmacy and healthcare access points beyond traditional pharmacy,” said Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and chief operating officer.

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.

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JPMA refutes media reports about dangers of baby bottle materials

BY Jenna Duncan

MT. LAUREL, N.J. The media has been asked by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to halt stories with claims of purported negative health effects from using baby products containing bisphenol A (BPA). JPMA claims that statements of ill health linked to items containing BPA are often misleading and frighten consumers.

According to JPMA, research has shown that when used properly, products made with BPA do not pose a health threat.

Robert Waller, Jr., the president of JPMA, said, “JPMA is extremely disappointed in the media for speculating that Health Canada’s assessment of BPA would recommend labeling the chemical a dangerous substance, when in fact the report has not even been issued yet.”

Claims in the media have stated that risk may come from the plastic shields on pacifiers, parts of baby bottles or sippy cups being broken down or chewed, and then ingested with food or saliva. Scientific findings indicate that BPA may cause estrogenic effects in laboratory animals, and so concerns about the safety of baby products, especially bottles, has been under scrutiny.

JPMA, whose mission is to educate consumers and industry professionals about juvenile products and safety, is referring consumers to its Web site, www.babybottles.org, for more information on BPA and related health findings.

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American Greetings reports fiscal 2008 profit

BY Doug Desjardins

CLEVELAND American Greetings generated $83.3 million in earnings for fiscal 2008, including $15.6 million in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 29, and more than $1.77 billion in total sales for year. Total sales were down about 1 percent from $1.79 billion the previous year, but earnings were up 96 percent from $42.4 million.

“I’m pleased we were able to achieve earnings within our forecasted range and exceed our cash flow guidance,” said American Greetings chief executive officer Zev Weiss. “Our strong cash flow allowed us to make two acquisitions in the digital photo space and repurchase shares.”

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