DEERFIELD, Ill., Jan. 9, 2012 - Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) (NASDAQ: WAG) today reported that it had a record signup of nearly 125,000 customers for its Prescription Savings Club (PSC) in the first week of the new year. Many pharmacy patients who have prescription insurance plans managed by Express Scripts are signing up for the drug discount program as they look for alternatives to continue filling their prescriptions at Walgreens. Record numbers of daily signups were registered throughout the past week.
Due to a contract dispute, Express Scripts has stopped providing in-network coverage of prescriptions filled at Walgreens as of Jan. 1, 2012. Patients with prescription insurance managed by other companies are not impacted.
“Our customers are looking for ways to continue using Walgreens to preserve their relationship with their trusted Walgreens pharmacist,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness solutions and services. “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.”
Janet Paz, a Walgreens pharmacy patient in Lowell, Mass. whose insurance is managed by Express Scripts, said, “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. 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. Choice is the No. 1 thing, and now I can stay with Walgreens and save money.”
To make it easier for patients to take advantage of the PSC, Walgreens is offering a promotion during the month of January on one-year memberships that is available to all PSC eligible customers. The program offers savings on more than 8,000 brand name and all generic medications. For more than 400 generic medications, Walgreens offers a three-month supply for less than $1 a week.
The PSC card promotion is part of a comprehensive national effort by Walgreens to help patients who are covered by an Express Scripts pharmacy network continue using Walgreens when possible or make a smooth transition to another community pharmacy.
“Our pharmacy patients have come to depend on their longstanding, personal relationships with their trusted Walgreens pharmacists, and they don’t want to give that up, especially without any meaningful cost savings to justify this needless hardship,” said Crawford. “We offered in our contract negotiations with Express Scripts to keep rates flat, and Express Scripts itself has stated that the elimination of Walgreens from its pharmacy network will not provide any reduction in costs for clients.”
Some patients under Express Scripts plans also are using their spouse’s coverage to continue using Walgreens. Walgreens also is continuing to work closely with employers, health plans and mid-tier pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that wish to maintain access to the company’s pharmacies and expanding health and wellness services. More than 120 Express Scripts clients already have informed Walgreens that they have either switched to a different PBM or taken other steps, consistent with their contracts, to maintain access to Walgreens pharmacies in 2012. Walgreens has continued to receive notifications nearly every day this year from additional companies who use Express Scripts as their PBM and are seeking ways to continue offering Walgreens services to their beneficiaries. In addition, some employers are offering to reimburse beneficiaries at out-of-network rates for prescriptions filled at Walgreens as an alternative to switching pharmacies.
Crawford said, “These companies believe we can help them lower overall health care costs. 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.”
Walgreens (www.walgreens.com) is the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2011 sales of $72 billion. The company operates 7,818 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Each day, Walgreens provides nearly 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.