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NEW YORK — Walgreens on Thursday took its failed negotiations with Express Scripts to Twitter, paying the social media site to promote the hashtag #ILoveWalgreens and setting off a barrage of tweets by tweeting "It's time to take a stand against @ExpressScripts. Tell them people want a choice by tweeting hashtag #ILoveWalgreens."
Walgreens paid the social network to promote that first tweet, making it show up in feeds of all Twitter users, even those who don't follow the pharmacy online. According to Twitter, Walgreens tweeted 126 times on Thursday. And according to Walgreens, the response was overwhelming — "tens of thousands" tweeted the #ILoveWalgreens hashtag with the ratio of positive-to-Walgreens tweets outweighing the negative by 12-to-1. "It accomplished what we wanted it to," Michael Polzin, Walgreens spokesman, told Drug Store News. "We wanted to give our customers a forum for voicing how they feel about Walgreens, and how they've been impacted by having to change pharmacies as a result of Express Scripts' stance."
Express Scripts countered the barrage of tweets with a series of six "facts" communicating that people still have choice with the 56,000 pharmacies remaining in the pharmacy benefit manager's network. Express Scripts in one tweet asserted that "Walgreens' proposed rates/terms would make them the most expensive pharmacy in our network."
During Walgreens' annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, Walgreens CFO Wade Miquelon pointed to a slide showing that Express Scripts' proposed reimbursement rates were not only a significant cut from what they've reimbursed in the past, but also a significant reduction as compared to the average industry cost of adjudicating a prescription, a fact that would have Walgreens operating at a loss when serving Express Scripts customers.
According to company officials, more than 200,000 of Walgreens' patients have signed on for the chain's prescription drug savings program from the beginning of the year through the shareholders meeting, marking a record sign-up rate. "The ball is in [Express Scripts'] court," Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness services and solutions, told reporters immediately following the shareholders meeting. Walgreens had made a second offer to Express Scripts in December in an attempt to reinitiate negotiations, but that offer had been rejected.