This post brought to you by Walgreens. All opinions are 100% mine.
If you're a Walgreens customer then you're probably well aware of the Walgreens and Express Scripts issue, but for those that might not be aware, I'll fill you in.
For the past year, Walgreens has been trying to negotiate with Express Scripts in order for Walgreens to stay in their pharmacy network. Unfortunately, these negotiations were unsuccessful and as of January 1, 2012, Walgreens is no longer part of Express Scripts pharmacy network. This includes Walgreens pharmacies nationwide.
Now, many Express Scripts customers have to drive further away to find pharmacies that are in the network and many people are having trouble getting their prescriptions filled due to their hectic work hours. Walgreens has more 24 hour pharmacies than any other pharmacy in the country.
During the negotiations, Walgreens offered to hold rates for a new contract flat and did not seek an increase in rates. Express Scripts responded by insisting that they be allowed to unilaterally define contract terms, such as what does and does not constitute a brand name drug and a generic drug. Express Scripts also wanted to slash Walgreens reimbursement rates to levels below the industry average cost to provide each prescription.
This is not going to help the customer in any way. Even Express Scripts themselves have admitted that customers will not see any significant savings by excluding Walgreens from their network. In fact, costs may even go up. Walgreens offers competitive pricing and they help people save in other ways by dispensing less expensive generic drugs more than other pharmacies. They also help people save by offering 90-day supplies of prescription drugs rather than three, 30-day refills. Express Scripts won't promote 90-day refills because that would interfere with its own 90-day mail order prescription business that it profits from. On top of all this, prices for prescription drugs at many retail pharmacies have been staying flat or declining throughout the past few years. But Express Script's profits have grown at a rate more than two times the average of peers in health care.
This hurts the military as well. One of Express Script's clients is Tricare, which is the health and prescription drug program for our military. Walgreens offered to provide an ironclad guarantee that Walgreens prices would match or beat the average cost per adjusted prescription of all other pharmacies in the Tricare network. Walgreens also offered to contract separately with Expess Scripts for Tricare, but this was also rejected by Express Scripts.
Obviously this is going to cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people. One of the things Walgreens is doing to try and help is offering a discount for their annual Prescription Savings Club at Walgreens. An individual can join in January for $5 or $10 for a family membership. With this program you can get savings on over 8,000 prescription drugs. More than 400 generic drugs are offered with a 90-day supply for less than $1 a week. The regular price for annual membership is $20 per individual and $35 for a family.
What can we do about it? If you're upset about this, let people know! Contact your local media, post about it on twitter, facebook, etc. Don't underestimate the power of your voice. People are more powerful than ever before because of the internet and the way word spreads so fast. This issue isn't just an inconvenience. This could make it extremely difficult for people to get their medications. Even if prices don't go up, what about all the elderly and disabled people that might not be able to drive to another pharmacy. Sure, there is the mail order option, but personally, if I'm taking something that is going to affect my body, I want someone to talk to about it in person! The relationship you have with your pharmacist is a very important one. I don't know how many times I've seen pharmacists tell people things that their doctor forgot to mention. There are some medications that interfere with each other. There are some foods you can't eat on certain medications. Your pharmacist is the person that is going to catch these things and warn you.