Walgreens vs. CVS More Thoughts

This was definitely the hot topic yesterday. I talked to lots of people about it.

I had a chance to give it some more thought last night. A few things dawned on me.

1. Timing. This was timed well from a Walgreens perspective. Managed Care RFPs are mostly over and employers are making their decisions now on PBM services. Managed Care would have been more likely to focus on the cost and understand how to mitigate the disruption. Employers will be much more sensitive to the disruption. That will be something that CVS Caremark will have to manage.

2. Who wins. Since one analyst told me that Walgreens represents only a single-digit of CVS Caremark’s revenue, the impact may not be huge. On the flip side, it’s likely some downside for Walgreens since they’ll stop serving some portion of CVS Caremark’s business. Consumers aren’t helped here. So, my only conclusion is that the other PBMs (i.e., Medco and Express Scripts) are best positioned to win from this if it causes any CVS Caremark PBM decisions to go their way. At a minimum, it creates FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) which no sales person likes to have to deal with.

3. Validation. If I’m the product manager for Maintenance Choice at CVS Caremark, this seems like pretty strong validation that the offering works. As Adam Fein showed before, it does drive volume to their stores. Obviously, Walgreens was afraid of this taking off and having a larger impact on them.

So…what would I do?

This is interesting since one of my last tasks at Express Scripts was to come up with a strategy in late 2005 around CVS and Walgreens backing out of our mandatory mail network. My strategy (which I ultimately left to pursue) was to respond by opening onsite clinics and building out a pharmacy kiosk system that could be put in grocery stores (only 50% have pharmacies), large employer campuses, and high density sites in big cities. While Express Scripts didn’t choose that path, I still believe there is opportunity there and CVS Caremark could easily implement such a strategy. [It’s starting to get momentum in Canada.] CVS Caremark (or Walgreens for that matter) have the technology and business model to implement on-site pharmacies and to create a central fill using kiosks. If those could mitigate the effect of the Walgreens decision, it could be an interesting response. [BTW – If you’re interested in my pharmacy kiosk business model that I ultimately wrote up and pursued with some angel investors, let me know. I may try to post some of it here later.]

On the other hand, another response would be to look at the top 5 MSA (market service areas) where Walgreens is stronger than CVS. I’m guessing those are NY (post-Duane Reade acquisition), Delaware (post-Happy Harry’s acquisition), St. Louis (CVS just started operating here), and a few others. They could go into those markets and buy up independents or some smaller chains to immediately mitigate this.

There are several responses short of just folding and putting Walgreens in the network. Ultimately, I think it’s about whether CVS and Walgreens see each other as “enemies” or just competitors. Do they want to grow the pie or do they want to put the other out of business (if such a thing were possible)?

More to come I’m sure…

2 Responses to “Walgreens vs. CVS More Thoughts”

  1. George,

    I love the idea about the Kiosks, I saw that they were doing these in Europe several years ago and pitched the idea to the RxAmerica sales/marketing team before we were acquired by CVS/Caremark in the Longs drug deal.

    Love reading your insight on your blog, keep it coming, between you and Adam Fein I feel like I am starting to grasp this complex industry that I work in . . .



    Love to connect with you on linkedin – http://www.linkedin.com/in/nathanmathews

  2. I think in the short term CVS wins. 20% of Walgreens 3rd party business is CVS Caremark members. If Walgreens drops all networks, this will force a lot of scripts to CVS/pharmacy locations. The long term impact on CVS Caremark will depend on how much this impacts their ability to get new contracts and renew existing contracts.

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