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Expanding reach: Q&A with FamilyWize CEO Joseph Sanginiti


Early this year, FamilyWize announced that in the 11 years since it began as a partnership with the local United Way in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, it has saved its users more than $1 billion on prescription drugs. The free FamilyWize discount card — which also is available as a mobile app — allows patients to get steep discounts on their medications through contracts with the more than 60,000 pharmacies that accept the card — including Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Kmart, Publix, Costco, Albertsons and Safeway, Kroger and Sam’s Club. Drug Store News spoke to FamilyWize CEO Joseph Sanginiti about how the company delivers savings to patients, and how its meeting patient needs among the uninsured, underinsured and the Medicare population.

DSN: This year you announced that you’ve saved patients more than $1 billion since 2005. How do you make these savings happen?

Joseph Sanginiti: We’re very proud of the $1 billion savings and 10 million people helped, especially when you take into consideration that FamilyWize was a social mission begun by a husband and wife. They had a connection with the United Way, which they used to distribute the card, and before you know it, it blossomed to more than 90% of the local United Ways across the country, so what started out as a small social mission became a very large resource for patients.

We’re very proud of that, though, because we’ve built out the infrastructure through a series of significant relationships, like those with the United Way, the National Council on Aging, the American Heart Association and the retail pharmacies. Our partnership with retail pharmacies is key to this success — they’re the ones who give us the discount.

DSN: How does FamilyWize negotiate discounts with retailers?

Sanginiti: We have a PBM called EnvisionRx that processes our prescriptions. With its assistance, we negotiate the contracts with each retail pharmacy as to what its willing to give us that we’re able to pass on to the patients. We agree on specific discounts off of AWP, and specific factors, such as dispensing fees and administrative fees, are all part of the contractual agreement that comes out of the retail pharmacies. The one thing that we know differentiates us from our competitors is we do not take any kind of spread — whatever discount is given to us, we pass that on 100%.

We’ve been fortunate that the discounts have been significant enough that it helps those who are uninsured — or even people who are underinsured because of their high deductibles — afford their medication and find it at a reasonable price.

DSN: You mentioned underinsured and uninsured patients. How have you seen those groups grow and change over the years?

Sanginiti: Unfortunately, it has grown, and over the years it grew because the uninsured population was such a large group — at one point more than 80 million people in the United States were uninsured or underinsured. What we saw when the Affordable Care Act passed was that number of uninsured reduced from 50 million to slightly under 30 million people. But what we have seen change over the years is the number of underinsured people. That was a very small population that kept growing little by little over the years, but is now up to an estimated 50 million people.

So we have the same population we had before, just in different buckets, and I believe that both will continue to grow. As we deal with the large deductibles or medications that aren’t covered, that will continue to grow the underinsured population. … We tell people that they should look on our website regardless of whether they meet the deductible or not. There are formularies and items that are not covered or are outside the scope of what the plan is willing to support, and sometimes the meds are cheaper regardless.

DSN: And how do people use the card — by printing one out, requesting one by mail or using the app?

Sanginiti: The FamilyWize app is the fastest-growing version of our card. In 2014, we launched the first version of the app, and it's gone through a series of improvements. Most notably, we've [integrated] with Walgreens, [allowing] you to get refills and transfer a prescription through our app. It's come a long way from just being a digital version of the card. [With the app], all a patient has to do is walk in and show it to the pharmacist, who then knows exactly what to do with it to process the discount.

The pharmacist is key to the success here. First of all, their knowledge is incredibly valuable, ... and they're such loyal people to their customers. In my years of experience, I think they're the unsung heroes of the healthcare arena. I spent 20 years at ExpressScripts, and I’m not a pharmacist, but I was responsible for the management of the mail-order pharmacies. I’ve come to have a great appreciation for what pharmacists do for their patients.


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