Walgreen Is Open to Deal for Express Scripts Network, Pharmacy Chief Says

Walgreen Co. (WAG) is willing to resume selling prescriptions to Express Scripts Inc. (ESRX) customers after the end of their contract Dec. 31 forced millions of consumers to switch pharmacies, Walgreen’s pharmacy-services chief said.

“We’ve always been willing to remain in the Express Scripts network, but it has to be at a rate which is fair for the value that we provide,” Kermit Crawford, president of Walgreen’s pharmacy, health and wellness services, said today in a telephone interview.

Walgreen, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, offered “significant cost concessions” in mid-December negotiations with Express Scripts from an earlier proposal to keep reimbursement rates flat for the next three years, Crawford said. He supervises Walgreen’s negotiating team and reports to Chief Executive Officer Greg Wasson.

Express Scripts “did not accept that offer and actually suggested pushing negotiations into the new year,” said Crawford, 52. “So I would say the ball is in their court. We are actually not waiting to hear from them. We’ve made the decision to move on.”

Express Scripts is open to an agreement with Walgreen, Brian Henry, an Express Scripts spokesman, said in an e-mail. Still, Walgreen wants to be paid more than other pharmacies, he said.

‘Hasn’t Changed’

“We have remained open to having Walgreens in our network, but only at rates and terms that are right for our clients and are consistent with other pharmacies,” Henry said. “That hasn’t changed.”

Walgreen is trying to convince health plans, employers and pharmacy-benefit managers other than Express Scripts to maintain access to its pharmacies, Crawford said. More than 130 Express Scripts clients had taken such steps, Walgreen said in a statement Dec. 30.

Walgreen, based in Deerfield, Illinois, rose 1.1 percent to $33.08 at the close in New York. St. Louis-based Express Scripts gained 1.9 percent to $49.39.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Burritt in Greensboro at cburritt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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