Local Pharmacies Hope to Gain from Express Scripts Change

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COLUMBIA - Local pharmacies said Thursday they are seeing some of Walgreens customers' prescriptions coming to them as the new year gets closer. That's because on Jan. 1, Walgreens pharmacies will no longer be contracted with Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager.

Express Scripts spokesman Thom Gross said its network reimburses pharmacies for filling prescriptions at a lower price. However, when Walgreens contract with Express Scripts is up on Jan. 1, prices will go up for those getting their prescriptions from Walgreens with Express Scripts on their health insurance.

Employers that carry Express Scripts include the University of Missouri and the state of Missouri, according to D&H Drug pharmacist Erica Hopkins-Wadlow.

Hopkins-Wadlow said she has noticed a change in the pharmacy's business because of Walgreens choice to leave Express Scripts.

"We have transferred in a lot more prescriptions than we normally would and most of them are saying, 'Yeah, it's because of my insurance,'" she said.

Hopkins-Wadlow said she understands Walgreens decision to leave the network.

"Walgreens is a big corporation, so you know it's setting an example saying, 'Hey, we're not going to take this.' I know not all people can. D&H we're a smaller business so it's harder to turn away people who need their prescriptions," she said.

Gross said patients with Express Scripts can transfer their prescriptions easily to any other of the pharmacies in their network including Hy-Vee, Sam's Club, Walmart, Gerbes, Schnucks and independent pharmacies like D&H Drug. You can also search your zip code on the Express Scripts website.

Walgreens' spokesman Michael Polzin said the chain is leaving Express Scripts because the network wanted to lower the rate of reimbursement it gives to Walgreens. Gross said the lower rate would offset the rising price of prescription drugs.

"The services that the pharmacy is providing are the same and we see no reason for our clients and patients to pay a higher dispensing rate just because the price of the drug has inflated," Gross said.

But Polzin explained Walgreens asked for the current rate in order to help pay for the prescriptions the pharmacies buys. Polzin said patients with Express Scripts can still come to Walgreens and have low-priced prescriptions because they offer more generic options than other pharmacies.

Gross said Express Scripts it is still open to negotiations with Walgreens, but assumes the pharmacy will leave the network on Jan 1.