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Walgreens, Prime Therapeutics form alliance

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Plan to merge central specialty, mail service pharmacy businesses

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DEERFIELD, Ill., and ST. PAUL, Minn. — Walgreens has entered into a long-term alliance with Prime Therapeutics, the nation’s fourth-largest pharmacy benefit manager, that will include the creation of a joint pharmacy services company.

Under the partnership, Walgreens and Prime will combine their central specialty pharmacy and mail service businesses, the companies said Monday. The deal also includes a new retail pharmacy network agreement for the PBM clients of Prime, which is owned by 14 Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans.

The central specialty and mail services company will be owned by Walgreens and Prime and governed by a separate board of directors and executive team. Walgreens and Prime said they plan to announce leadership decisions for the combined specialty and mail services company later this year. The merged entity will be incorporated into the financial statements of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), the parent of Walgreens.

With the new retail pharmacy network pact, Prime’s health plan and employer clients will get access to the preferred Walgreens pharmacy network.  The companies said Prime’s 22 million members also will receive access to personalized pharmacy services and cost-saving opportunities when filling prescriptions at Walgreens.

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Alex Gourlay, Walgreens Boots Alliance

Plans call for Walgreens to become the core pharmacy provider in Prime’s national preferred pharmacy network starting Jan. 1. Prime said it will continue to support client-specific network choices for 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,” WBA co-chief operating officer Alex Gourlay said in a statement.  “Walgreens has a long history of working with our business partners to create new solutions to help improve access and patient care, and we look forward to providing a differentiated and patient-led pharmacy experience to more Prime members.”

Joining Prime’s PBM expertise with the reach and operating efficiencies of Walgreens’ nearly 8,200 drug stores, the alliance ushers in a new model that enables the pharmacy, PBM and health plans to better coordinate patient care, in turn improving health outcomes and reining in costs, Walgreens and Prime said. Payers will be able to improve cost control and health outcomes management by leveraging integrated medical and pharmacy data. In addition, Prime, Walgreens and the central specialty and mail service company can tap Walgreens’ omnichannel services and resources to bolster patients’ medication adherence and improve their health outcomes.

“With costs rising at unsustainable rates, we must take strong and decisive action to make health care more affordable,” stated Prime Therapeutics president and chief executive officer Jim DuCharme. “We’re trying to apply the brakes to this runaway 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. We believe that the care, value and commitment that we will deliver together will create benefits to our Blue Plan clients and members.”

Walgreens and Prime said the transaction to merge their central specialty pharmacy and mail service businesses is slated to close in the first half of calendar 2017, pending regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.


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