ORLANDO, Fla. — Merging the specialty pharmacy and mail service capabilities of Walgreens and Prime Therapeutics LLC has created a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, says Joel Wright, chief executive officer of the newly formed AllianceRx Walgreens Prime.
Increased purchasing scale and the addition of Prime’s clinical and lives management “gave both companies the opportunity to accelerate and grow together,” Wright says.
Neither company had centralized pharmacy at its core, he adds, saying Prime was in its essence a pharmacy benefits manager and Walgreens is built around retailing. So the merger “gives us that additional focus and drive in that centralized pharmacy space.”
Wright spoke after AllianceRx Walgreens Prime officially began the launch of its new brand, which included the unveiling of new signage at its headquarters here, as well as at a few other company-owned facilities across the country. This also formally introduced the new brand to patients, some of whom have begun to see the AllianceRx Walgreens Prime name and logo on prescriptions and correspondence. Full consumer rollout, and all components of the company, are expected to be aligned to the new brand by the end of March.
Wright says the biggest synergies from the merger will be driving procurement opportunities and aggressive growth. That was evident when the newly formed company announced “huge wins” in bringing in the federal employee program and Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield in Portland, Ore., he says. “The opportunity to grow quickly, to drive a little bit of a different model and partner with two really strong parent companies is where the quick wins are.”
The new entity will take advantage of Walgreens’ and Prime’s best practices, he adds. “We were able to pick up the best of both, from a systems standpoint as well as from a profit standpoint.” The ability to ensure measurement of significant metrics to customers and patients is “a critical pickup and win,” he notes. Another major gain is “the ability to leverage the scale to bring a more competitive offering.”
AllianceRx Walgreens Prime’s capabilities were apparent when Hurricane Irma swept up Florida. The company, which came through the storm with its Orlando facility undamaged, “came out with incredible patient stories that wouldn’t have been possible without the companies being together,” remarks Wright. “That was maybe a ray of sunshine in what otherwise was a pretty significant storm blowing through this part of the world.”
And in Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by Hurricane Maria, the company has been able to leverage Walgreens stores to get medications to patients. It’s not easy on the island to get packages delivered, but patients are often able to get needed drugs at stores where generators have restored power.
AllianceRx Walgreens Prime has six specialty and two mail service facilities, stretching across the country. The geographic spread gives it the opportunity to serve the needs of patients with complex conditions — such as cancer and multiple sclerosis — nationwide, says Wright. The company will be one of the top-three players in the specialty space, with CVS Caremark and Express Scripts Inc.’s Accredo Health Group Inc.
As part of the establishment of the new company and as a next step, approximately 3,000 positions will transfer from Walgreens and Prime to AllianceRx Walgreens Prime by the end of 2017.
In addition, the company is in the final stages of hiring about 1,000 more pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, nurses and other support personnel. This growth would bring its workforce to around 4,000 people across multiple locations in 10 states.