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Express Scripts Cites Smooth Transition From Walgreen

By Jon Kamp Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Express Scripts Inc. (ESRX) has had a smooth transition away from its relationship with Walgreen Co. (WAG), which left the pharmacy-benefit manager's network on Jan. 1 following a contract-renewal dispute, Express Scripts Chief Executive George Paz said Thursday. The broken relationship meant people with drug benefits covered by Express Scripts--about one-fifth of the company's business--had to find another pharmacy to get the best price when filling prescriptions. Express Scripts added staff ahead of the shift to handle customer calls and guard against disruption. "We're quite content where we sit today," Paz said regarding the move. He spoke on a conference call with analysts following Express Scripts' earnings release late Wednesday. He reiterated that the company remains willing to talk to Walgreen about potentially renewing the relationship, "but it has got to be in the best interest of our shareholders and patients." The companies could not come to agreement on prescription-reimbursement rates before their prior contract expired. Both companies have accused the other side of pushing unreasonable terms. Express Scripts' fourth-quarter earnings were lower than analysts expected, despite stronger revenue, as the company spent to accelerate projects and free space for the integration of Medco Health Solutions Inc. (MHS). Express Scripts plans to close a planned deal for Medco, a rival PBM, in the first half this year provided the companies achieve U.S. antitrust clearance. Express Scripts shares traded up 2.8% to $53.05 early Thursday. --By Jon Kamp, Dow Jones Newswires; 617-654-6728; [email protected]

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