Express Scripts, Walgreens Partner to Expand Group Purchasing of Specialty Drugs

The new purchasing efforts may help increase biosimilar uptake and lower drug costs.

Express Scripts and Walgreens Boots Alliance recently announced a broadening of their purchasing efforts to include specialty brand drugs, according to a press release.

Due to the potential cost-savings associated with biosimilars in the next few years, the companies believe the expansion will have significant benefits.

"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 Tim Wentworth, CEO, president, Express Scripts.

The plan will be supported by ValoremRx Specialty Solutions, which will source specialty drugs. This approach will simplify the pharmaceutical supply chain and lower costs for all patients and clients, including Accredo and Walgreens specialty pharmacy patients, according to the release.

"As prescription drug needs evolve and specialty medications are prescribed more often, we continue to look for new solutions that will help our patients get the medications they need at an affordable price," said Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance. "Working with Express Scripts, we are partnering to deliver even more value to our patients and clients to improve health outcomes."

In Express Scripts’ 2017 Drug Trend Report, the pharmacy benefit manager noted that specialty drug spending increased 11% year over year due to an 8% increase in utilization and a 3% increase in unit costs, which highlights potential opportunities to reduce costs.

Express Scripts noted it recently implemented outcomes-based programs that require payments for specialty drug treatment failures in an effort to lower spending, according to the report.

The latest Vizient Drug Price Forecast also suggests that specialty drugs will drive spending in 2018. Specifically, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs are projected to increase nearly 12%. Due to a number of emerging biosimilars for these products, the Express Scripts and Walgreens partnership may be able to help control specialty drug spending.