OK, so I’m not much of a Grateful Dead fan, but that lyric from “Truckin’” has been going through my head since I heard the news yesterday that Express Scripts Holding Co. and Walgreen Co. had finally reached a new pharmacy network agreement. It was a long year of ups and downs for the two companies, so I thought a timeline of highlights from this saga would be helpful to readers as they sort out what this means for the pharmacy benefit industry.
June 2011: With more than six months left before the Jan. 1, 2012, expiration of its agreement with Express Scripts, Walgreens walks away from contract-renewal discussions, citing the PBM’s insistence on being able to unilaterally define contract terms, including what does and does not constitute a brand and generic drug, which would have denied Walgreens the predictability necessary to reliably plan its business operations going forward. Express Scripts, meanwhile, claims Walgreens’ rates are not competitive with its pharmacy peers.
September 2011: Express Scripts sues Walgreens for allegedly using false advertising to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to abandon Express Scripts. Walgreens fires back, accusing Walgreens of failing to negotiate in good faith.
Jan. 1, 2012: Walgreens officially drops out of the Express Scripts network; retail pharmacies and grocery stores across the nation sport banners proclaiming, “We accept Express Scripts customers!”
February 2012: In a Feb. 23 conference call to discuss 2011 earnings, Express Scripts reports that the departure of Walgreens had minimal impact on client retention, with 95% of accounts moving forward without Walgreens in their networks. Chairman, CEO and President George Paz makes a controversial statement, “Drugs are drugs and it shouldn’t matter that much who’s counting to 30,” upsetting the National Community Pharmacists Association.
March 2012: A survey of 300 independent pharmacy owners conducted by North Star Opinion Research on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association finds that the majority of customers affected by the dispute switched pharmacies with relative ease.
April 2012: Express Scripts closes its previously announced acquisition of Medco Health Solutions, Inc., leading insiders and clients to wonder what will happen to Medco’s existing contract with Walgreens when it expires at an undisclosed later date. Express Scripts Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Steve Miller, M.D., tells Drug Benefit News it will honor Medco’s current pact with Walgreens and re-evaluate the position of Walgreens in those clients’ networks “over due time.” Meanwhile, Walgreens reports a 6.1% decline in prescriptions from the fiscal second quarter of 2011 to the same quarter this year and estimates an earnings impact of 7 cents per share from the fallout.
May 2012: CVS Caremark Corp. says it picked up about 5.7 million to 6.5 million additional prescriptions as a result of the contract dispute, which added 3 cents per share to the company’s first-quarter 2012 earnings. Paz semi-apologizes in a Wall Street Journal interview for dissing pharmacies with his “counting to 30” comment.
June 2012: The two parties on June 1 announce the mutual dismissal of the above lawsuit but claim this has no bearing on whether they will or won’t reach a new pact. Insiders, however, speculate that this could indicate a slight thaw.
July 19, 2012: Express Scripts and Walgreens unveil a multiyear agreement that includes Walgreens in the “broadest Express Scripts retail pharmacy network available to new and existing clients” starting on Sept. 15 but reveal little else of the contract.
Did I leave anything out? Feel free to recall another memorable plot point in the dispute, or just leave a comment about how you think this development could impact drug purchasing going forward.