Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Drug Channels News Roundup: September 2013

Wow, Sunday was the first day of autumn. Time to buy a rake, gather up some acorns, make fantasy football trades, and read these acquisition-related news stories from the Drug Channels universe.

In this issue:
  • Harvest Time—Express Scripts rescues Walgreens-backed Part D plan
  • Chinese Acorns—Alliance Boots plans a major China pharmacy expansion
  • Raking Up—Magellan buys PartnersRx
Plus, watch my latest TV interview, in which I discuss anti-counterfeiting technology and the folly of sketchy online pharmacies. Will Mainers listen?

Express Scripts Acquires SmartD Medicare Prescription Drug Plan; Adds to Industry-Leading Medicare Offering
SmartD, which was operated by RxAlly, marketed a Part D plan with a preferred network containing Walgreens drugstores and about 14,000 independent pharmacies. Walgreens was the major investor behind both RxAlly and SmartD. However, the SmartD plans bombed in the market, getting just 0.3% of total 2013 PDP enrollment. (See Final 2013 Part D Data.) Marketing was very poor, so seniors didn't see the value versus more attractive Part D preferred networks. The problems were compounded when CMS sanctioned RxAlly for widespread operational failures, as I note in the May news roundup. In August, RxAlly shut down, making this whole episode a failed experiment for Walgreens. Express Scripts probably paid almost nothing to salvage the remains of SmartD.

Alliance Boots to Focus on Acquisitions to Expand in China
According this Bloomberg story, Alliance Boots could have “as many as 5,000 pharmacies in the Asian nation in two years…” The article implies that a deal announcement is coming soon. Will the Chinese pharmacies stores be branded as Boots, Walgreens, a combination, or perhaps something else? It’s not clear from the article. I’m surprised to read that Alliance Boots’ decision may—or may not—involve Walgreens. Hmmm. As I note in Making Sense of ABC-Walgreens-Alliance Boots, drug channels participants—including Walgreens management—are all now playing on Stefano Pessina’s global chess board.

Magellan Health Services to Acquire Partners Rx
Another week, another PBM acquisition. This time, Magellan Health Services is buying PartnersRx, a $240 million PBM with 300,000 commercial lives. The feeding frenzy rages on!

Drug Wars Get Technical
Here’s my Fox Business interview about counterfeit drugs. I add my usual skepticism that criminals don't take the time to check electronic tags, and warn consumers about online pharmacy dangers. (See also 2010’s Reality Check on Supply Chain Security.) Legislators in Maine don’t get it, as evidenced by the state’s ludicrous new law that encourages importation: An Act To Facilitate the Personal Importation of Prescription Drugs from 14 International Mail Order Prescription PharmaciesClick here if you can’t see the video.


  1. Frankly with the mishandling of Walgreen's from middle management down, I'm not sure if I'd want them adding input on a global deal. They have a very serious morale problem to deal with as I have seen a wave of quality employees leave as of late.