Express Scripts joins Walgreens Boots to cut biosimilar costs
- Express Scripts Holding Company will team up with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. to expand their group purchasing efforts around specialty pharmaceuticals.
- The agreement will tap ValoremRx Specialty Solutions LLC as a source for specialty pharmaceuticals in order to "simplify the global supply chain and lower costs."
- "Specialty medications represent the most costly and complex drugs. By expanding our efforts with Walgreens Boots Alliance, we will improve our supply chain and ultimately make the use of these medicines, including biosimilars, more affordable and accessible for our patients and clients," said Express Scripts President and CEO Tim Wentworth.
Drug chain giant Walgreen and the pharmacy benefit manager haven't always had such a chummy relationship. The pair parted ways in 2011 after a dispute over payment issues, but resolved the costly dispute in mid-2012 as per an agreement with undisclosed terms.
In May 2017, Express Scripts joined the Walgreens Boots Alliance Development GmbH group purchasing organization, an effort to maximize supply chain efficiencies to lower the price of generic drugs.
The latest expansion of the agreement between Walgreens and the large pharmacy benefit manager will include biosimilars.
While the Food and Drug Administration has approved several biosimilars, with more on the way, only a small handful of those have actually reached the market. Patent lawsuits have kept most of these copycat biologics from getting to patients.
But even those that have entered the market have had trouble gaining traction. For instance, Pfizer Inc.'s biosimilar Inflectra of Johnson & Johnson's Remicade (infliximab) has been flailing since its launch. Pfizer blames the contract agreements that J&J has in place with third party payers. Yet, other issues have contributed to the problem as well. There is a lack of physician understanding about biosimilars, and even Pfizer's Inflectra only comes at a small discount to Remicade, unlike the major discounts seen with traditional generics.
Pfizer executives have expressed dismay about the payer system – the agreements that are based on rebates for certain drugs – in regards to biosimilars, expressing frustration that these copycat drugs have not yet helped lower costs for the overall health system.
Actions like those being taken by Express Scripts could help speed up the transition from pricey older biologics to somewhat lower cost biosimilars.
- Walgreens Boots Alliance Statement
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