Topeka About 100,000 Kansas residents will have fewer places to get discount drugs because Walgreen Co. won’t do business with the firm managing the prescription drug program for state employees.
The state is dropping Walgreen stores from its network of pharmacies for the program starting July 9, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Friday. The program covers state workers, teachers, some local government employees, some retirees and family members.
Walgreen announced this week that it won’t participate in new or renewed prescription contracts managed by CVS Caremark Corp. Last month, a state commission approved a three-year contract with CVS to continue managing the state employees’ prescription plan.
Walgreen has 66 stores in Kansas, and last year, they filled about 24 percent of the prescriptions under the plan, according to the Kansas Health Policy Authority, which oversees it.
“We recognize this will be a disruption for our members, and we are working on plans to minimize that disruption,” said Doug Farmer, the health plan’s director. “In any area where there’s a Walgreens pharmacy, there is also another pharmacy that will still be part of the network.”
Walgreen, headquartered in Deerfield, Ill., is the nation’s largest drugstore chain, just ahead of Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Caremark.
Walgreen has questioned policies it believes are designed to push plans’ participants to CVS pharmacies and has suggested CVS’ reimbursement rates are unpredictable. CVS Caremark contends Walgreen is trying to obtain better rates.
CVS faced some scrutiny from legislators earlier this year, when a national organization representing unions suggested state employees and others were paying too much for many prescriptions — a claim CVS said was based on misleading information.
A Kansas House committee had a hearing, but Farmer defended the state’s contract with CVS, and legislators didn’t do more with the complaint.
Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said taking Walgreen stores out of the pharmacy network will make it harder for state workers to get their prescriptions in a timely manner.
“Walgreens isn’t only one of the cheapest places, but one of the most accessible in Kansas,” she said.
But the Health Policy Authority doesn’t expect significant problems.
“Our review shows if you are going to Walgreens, there should be another network pharmacy nearby,” spokesman Peter Hancock said.