GM Has Its Fill of Walgreens Prescriptions

February 14, 2005 ( - In what appears to be a preemptive strike, General Motors Corp. is reportedly dropping Walgreens from its network of prescription-drug providers, anticipating that the drugstore chain might sever its ties with the automaker over rules requiring some prescriptions to be filled by mail.

However, according to the Associated Press, the nation’s largest drugstore chain said it had no plans to cut ties to GM and hoped to continue serving its employees.

GM has informed its 1.1 million employees, retirees, and their spouses and dependents in the US that, effective March 1, they won’t be able to fill prescriptions at Walgreen’s 4,200-plus stores. That means that about 10% of all GM-covered households that fill prescriptions will need to find a new participating retail pharmacy, according to the automaker. GM’s prescription provider, New Jersey-based Medco Health Services, said they decided to cut ties with Walgreen out of concern it would stop doing business with GM, as it did last month with the state of Ohio.

Walgreens, saying it disapproved of Ohio’s mandatory mail-order program for some drugs, stopped accepting prescriptions from Ohio government employees on January 1 (see press release ).

GM was one of several auto industry firms, including Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and suppliers Visteon and Delphi, that last year adopted a mandatory mail-order program for maintenance drugs. Such medication must be taken for a long period of time, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs. Last month, Toyota Motor announced that it was requiring employees to get many medications through on-site pharmacies and mail orders, a move that led CVS, which had previously opted out of the health plan for the state of Ohio on similar grounds, to opt out of the car manufacturer’s drug plan as well (see CVS Drops Toyota, Ohio Health Plans ).

Walgreens announced in December 2003 it wouldn’t join new prescription benefit programs that mandate filling chronic prescriptions through a mail service facility, noting that its goal is to ensure patients have the choice of filling these long-term maintenance medications at either their local community pharmacy or through a mail service pharmacy.