Walgreens leaving Tricare pharmacy program

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Kwame Griffith, a graduate pharmacy intern at Walgreens in Clovis, enters orders into the Walgreens system Thursday.

Liliana Castillo

Just over 89,000 Tricare beneficiaries in New Mexico will be affected by Walgreens leaving the Tricare’s drug network.

Walgreens says it will split with Express Scripts, the company that manages Tricare’s pharmacy program by the end of the year.

Express Scripts is Tricare’s pharmacy contractor responsible for the Tricare retail pharmacy and pharmacy home delivery programs that provide the best value for the government, according to Tricare Management Activity Public Affairs Chief Austin Camacho.

Camacho said that as a result of unsuccessful contract negotiations, Walgreens no longer plans to be part of Express Scripts’ pharmacy provider network as of Jan. 1, 2012.

“This means that beginning next year, the Tricare pharmacy network would no longer include Walgreens pharmacies. The Tricare pharmacy network includes 53,000 other pharmacies to absorb prescriptions previously filled by Walgreens’ stores,” Camacho said.

Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin said that the pharmacy retail giant is aware of the potential impact the change will have on patients.

“In our negotiations with Express Scripts, we proposed lower rates for the Tricare program outside of commercial rates but that offer was turned down,” Polzin said.

He said Walgreens also offered to contract separately with Express Scripts for Tricare beneficiaries and to continue serving the military while negotiations continued on the commercial side.

“That was refused also,” he said. “We’ve really been trying to do all we can to serve military personnel and we really want to.”

Camacho said Tricare beneficiaries have the option to fill their prescriptions at military pharmacies at no cost and through Tricare home delivery at less cost to them than at a retail pharmacy. Other network retail pharmacies and non-network pharmacies are also options.

Camacho said that in 2010, Walgreens filled 12.5 percent of all prescriptions in the military health system.

According to Camacho, Express Scripts is required by contract to maintain minimum access standards for Department of Defense beneficiaries, based on travel distance. ESI has assured the DoD that they will continue to meet these access standards even if Walgreens chooses not to participate in the network.

Rhoden-Smith Pharmacist David Lansford said he’s sure the action taken by Walgreens will have an impact on local pharmacies in Clovis.

“But it would be difficult to measure what that impact is without knowing what their (Walgreens’) volume is for Tricare insurance,” he said.

Lansford said Tricare is one of several insurance companies and Walgreens is one of a dozen in the area that handle Express Scripts orders.

Several pharmacies in Clovis and Portales accept Tricare insurance, including Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, Rhoden-Smith Pharmacy and Wal-Mart, CJ’s Pill Box, Portales Professional Compounding and Village Pharmacy.