Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drug Channels News Roundup: December 2010

Here's my final 2010 round-up of noteworthy news stories from the Drug Channels universe. In this edition:
  • The Battle for Specialty: Express Scripts goes after buy-and-bill specialty drugs
  • Direct to pharmacy, mate: Pfizer plans to bypass Australian wholesalers
  • Pharmacy Price War Update: More pharmacies join UnitedHealthcare’s preferred Part D network
  • Thumbs up! Reviews of my new pharmacy report from the blogosphere
Hope you've been nice, not naughty, in 2010!

Express Scripts Establishes New Specialty Benefits Organization
In November, Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX) announced the formation of a new Specialty Benefit Services organization. SBS aims to combine PBM and specialty pharmacy services with management of drugs covered under the medical benefit. Yup, they are going after the buy-and-bill spend on specialty drugs in physician offices and clinics. As I noted back June’s Channel Strategy at the PBM-Wholesaler Intersection, wholesalers and PBMs are on a collision course over the distribution channels for specialty drugs. Pay attention to this trend in 2011.

Pfizer goes Direct-to-Pharmacy in Australia
Share of Australian wholesalers took a big hit last week when Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) announced a new Direct-to-Pharmacy (DTP) distribution arrangement. Pfizer’s official announcement put a more positive spin on news: Pfizer Strengthens Partnerships with Community Pharmacy. You can read about Pfizer’ DTP strategy in the UK in Behind the Scenes at Pfizer UK and Pfizer Tries to Choke Demand for Parallel Imports. For the record, I think DTP for traditional drugs is unlikely in the U.S.

UnitedHealthcare Expands Pharmacy Saver
UnitedHealthcare (NYSE:UNH) added more mass-market and supermarket pharmacies to its Medicare Part D preferred network called United Pharmacy Saver. The group now includes top 10 pharmacies Kroger (NYSE:KR), Safeway NYSE:SWY), and Target (NYSE:TGT), among others. Since the drug list is fairly narrow, it looks like a half-hearted competitive response to the Humana Walmart Preferred Rx Plan. Nonetheless, I am once again amazed at Walmart’s ability to initiate a retail pharmacy price war.

Reviews for the 2010-11 Economic Report on Retail and Specialty Pharmacies
Two of the industry’s leading bloggers wrote very nice reviews of my new report.
  • George Van Antwerp, who blogs on PBM-related topics at Enabling Health Decisions, writes: “He does a great job of aggregating data, looking at trends, creating great charts, and providing an informed perspective on the industry.
  • Todd Eury, who blogs on independent pharmacy topics at Pharmacy Technology Resource, writes: “This report is concise and provides an incredible amount of intelligent usable information for the privately owned pharmacy business…Independent Pharmacy owners will find this report a tremendous education to helping with a new strategy for 2011!
Thanks, guys!


  1. Thanks for these great updates! I bought your new report-excellent work.

  2. For a Holiday treat, make a post of your headlines and pictures. They are funny. You your free time. Maybe even a pick your favorite survey.

  3. Adam,

    Walmart's ability to initiate a price war might just show that those managers responsible for such knee jerk reactions still don't understand that retail pharmacy (prescriptions)is not like selling bath soap. You don't need a $100K sales clerk for that.