Walgreens to leave Express Scripts network Jan. 1

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 | 4:48 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Walgreens pharmacies won't be in the Express Script pharmacy benefit network as of Jan. 1.

Walgreens customers who continue to use Express Scripts have two options, Michael Polzin, Walgreens spokesman, said:

  • Leave Walgreens and transfer to a different pharmacy in the Express Scripts network.
  • Have prescriptions filled at Walgreens, but submit a claim to insurance for an out-of-network expense. How and whether customers would be reimbursed would depend on their insurance.

For most members of Express Scripts, that means leaving Walgreens. "Most plans have advised their members that they should be finding a new pharmacy," said Thom Gross, Express Scripts spokesman. 

Walgreens announced its separation from Express Scripts on June 21. In September, the two remained in contentious contract negotiations.

Later in September, Express Scripts filed a lawsuit against Walgreens, saying the drugstore chain was trying to lure away Express Scripts' customers and was acting against the contract by urging customers to change networks. Gross said the arbitrator did not grant injunctive relief to either party, and the lawsuit is still pending. Polzin said this was "in Walgreens' favor."

For Express Scripts, the central point of contention in contract negotiations was price competitiveness, Gross said previously.

Express Scripts reimburses pharmacies in its network for filling prescriptions at discounted rates. Walgreens is the highest-priced pharmacy in the Express Scripts network and wanted to charge more than other pharmacies yet continue doing the same service, Gross said.

Polzin said Walgreens made a new offer to Express Scripts in mid-December, but Express Scripts turned it down. 

According to a previous Missourian article, Walgreens said it would lose $5.3 billion in revenue as a result of ending the relationship with Express Scripts, but that was a better option than continuing with the existing terms of the contract.

Both spokesmen said they are open to negotiation, but an agreement for next year does not seem likely at this point. 

"Unless something happens at the eleventh hour, we're not planning on being in the network," Polzin said.

Among other employers in Columbia, the UM System uses Express Scripts. The system will continue using Express Scripts in 2012, said Kelley Stuck, associate vice president of total compensation for the UM System.

There are more than 20 pharmacies that accept Express Scripts in the Columbia area, but none of them are 24-hour pharmacies, like the Columbia Walgreens store at 222 E. Broadway. 

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Corey Parks December 22, 2011 | 9:31 a.m.

There was also the fact that express scripts had to pay more to Walgreens then other pharmacies because they were open 24/7 as if the only reason they were open that much was because of express scripts

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