Express Scripts says moving on without Walgreen

ST LOUIS – Express Scripts Inc. said on Thursday it was moving forward successfully without Walgreen Co. in its pharmacy network, citing wide support from clients.

Chief Executive Officer George Paz said the pharmacy benefits manager remained open to talking with Walgreen, “but it has got to be in the best interest of our shareholders and patients.”

Walgreen, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, stopped filling prescriptions for patients in the Express Scripts network as of Jan. 1 after the companies failed to come to terms on a new contract.

“Our clients are very supportive,” Paz told analysts on a conference call to discuss the company’s fourth-quarter results. “Our phones aren’t ringing, people aren’t concerned, our clients aren’t upset, so this truly has been a good move for us.”

Express Scripts shares rose 4 percent in morning trading on Thursday.

The company also said it still expects to close its $29 billion acquisition of rival Medco Health Solutions Inc. in the first half of the year. Medco shares were up 3.7 percent.

Paz said Walgreen has not shown why they should be paid more than other pharmacies.

“Many of the things that they are offering in the pharmacy are being offered by many others out there,” he said. “So I don’t see them as differentiated, and I just can’t with a good conscience pay them a significant premium for something that everyone else is doing and doing it just as well.”