The Walgreens Boots Alliance has just announced a new, long-term “strategic alliance” with the large pharmacy benefits manager Prime Therapeutics, which is owned by 14 Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans.
The freshly inked deal with include a brand new retail pharmacy network for Prime, to become effective in 2017. It will also connect Walgreens with the 4th largest PBM in the country.
Prime Therapeutics competes directly with the likes of UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Rx and Express Scripts, as well as CVS Health’s Caremark PBM subsidiary. The goal, of course, is to find better deals on prescription drugs as offered through employer health plans.
“The prescription drug needs of consumers are often changing, and this unique collaboration will help us deliver value, care and service to our patients and the communities we serve,” explains Walgreens Boots Alliance co-chief operating officer Alex Gourlay.
Walgreens currently has in excess of 8,000 stores across the United States.
This could be a very smart move for Walgreen Boots Alliance, as Prime Therapeutics was formed nearly three decades ago, gradually growing to include many of America’s biggest Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance companies; companies like Health Care Service Corp.
“With costs rising at unsustainable rates, we must take strong and decisive action to make health care more affordable,”comments Prime Therapeutics chief executive officer Jim DuCharme.
Pharmacy Benefits managers negotiate deals on behalf of employers or government health programs (Medicaid and Medicare, for example), in an effort to help clients better coordinate their medical care and, more importantly, to manage drug costs. They try to keep drug costs low by buying in bulk and, hopefully, negotiating better rates—and sometimes even exclusive deals—that bring lower prices overall.
Of course, the need for networks like these continue to become more and more important, with the notable rise in expensive prescriptions like that of new Hepatitis C medicines from Abbvie, Gilead Sciences, and Merck.
DuCharme goes on to say, “We’re trying to apply the breaks to this run-away freight train of rising drug costs by aligning the cost control expertise of the trusted Blue+Prime model with Walgreens supply chain capabilities and sending a message that we are on board with finding a solution to this issue.”