Thursday, February 25, 2016

Drug Channels News Roundup, February 2016: Walgreens Boots Alliance (x2), Express Scripts, Valeant, and CVS Health

Brrr. This winter has felt like February since December. But winter is almost over. To celebrate and stay warm, please enjoy this month's hand-picked selection of noteworthy Drug Channels news stories. In this issue:
  • Learn about WBA’s Stefano Pessina and the behind-the-scenes details of his Walgreens takeover
  • Watch Pessina hype vertical integration
  • Hear Express Scripts talk tough about Valeant (and wonder if it's just talk)
Plus, an exclusive report from a CVS Health cashier during cold and cough season.

P.S. For daily updates on news and articles that I think are cool and/or interesting, join the more than 2,500 people who follow @DrugChannels on Twitter.

The Billionaire Behind Walgreens' Quest for Global Dominance, Fortune
Here’s a superb profile of Stefano Pessina, our global channels overlord and Executive Vice Chairman and chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance. (WBA). The article traces his personal and business history, including details of his relationship with “life partner” and WBA executive Ornella Barra. The reporter also dishes some serious dirt on how Pessina outmaneuvered Greg Wasson and the former Walgreens management team.

BTW, I love the hilarious—and accurate—image that Fortune created for the article. Resistance is futile!
[Click to Enlarge]

Walgreens CEO: Consumer Drug Prices Should Be Lower, MSN Money
I suggest spending four minutes with this January video interview with Pessina. Key quote:
“Vertical integration has a lot of sense in the U.S. … If we could compact the chain, make it more integrated, we would save a lot of money.”

For the LOLs: The interviewer starts things off by asking what he should call Walgreens Boots Alliance. (Answer: “WBA.”) Pessina laughs and says, “It’s not a great name, I know.” His words, not mine!

Express Scripts Giving 'Extra Scrutiny' to Valeant Prescriptions, Bloomberg
Valeant remains in the news. Last November, I highlighted how pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) were scrutinizing Valeant-affiliated pharmacies. (See After the Valeant-Philidor Blowup, PBMs Clamp Down on Network Pharmacies.) The PBMs are now directly targeting Valeant drugs. This Bloomberg article quotes Steve Miller, chief medical officer for Express Scripts, who says: “We are looking at every single claim for their products.”

Of course, there’s a bit of show business here. Consider Valeant’s Glumetza, which Express Scripts removed from its formulary. To me, this seems to be a largely symbolic move, especially since a generic version of the product is about to launch. As I told Pharmalot:
“There’s more significance for public relations than formulary coverage,” said Adam Fein of Pembroke Consulting, which tracks pharmaceutical distribution. “Express Scripts needs to demonstrate to their clients that they’re getting tough with manufacturers, because a lot of health plans are questioning Valeant’s actions.”
Nonetheless, Valeant’s PBM pain is likely to continue. On Tuesday, CVS Health announced new formulary restrictions for Jublia, the drugmaker’s toenail fungus treatment.

CVS Cashier Can’t Wait To Accept $20 Bill From Customer Purchasing 3 Different Cough Medications, The Onion
Another important drugstore news story, from America's Finest News Source.

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