Cigna Corp.'s Express Scripts and Prime Therapeutics solidified the terms of a three-year collaboration as the pharmacy benefit managers look to leverage the scale of the more than 100 million individuals that their clients cover.
Express Scripts, the nation's largest PBM that merged with Cigna last year, said Thursday that it will offer retail pharmacy and drug manufacturer contract services to Prime, which is owned by 18 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans that stand to benefit from Express Scripts' purchasing power. Prime said it will continue to supply full-service pharmacy benefit management offerings for its clients.
"Our agreement reinforces our position as a health services partner of choice for health plans, employers, government and other payers seeking the most value for their investments in healthcare," Tim Wentworth, president of Express Scripts and Cigna Services, said in prepared remarks. "This collaboration allows both Prime and Express Scripts to leverage our capabilities to deliver more affordable healthcare."
PBMs—middlemen that purchase drugs in bulk and negotiate deals with drug manufacturers for employers, insurers and other payers—have been consolidating at a rapid pace, along with the rest of the industry.
Before the $67 billion Cigna and Express Scripts deal closed, CVS Health and its Caremark PBM completed a $70 billion merger with Aetna. UnitedHealth Group's PBM OptumRx announced last week that it would acquire Diplomat, a specialty pharmacy and PBM headquartered in Flint, Mich. Anthem launched its in-house PBM, IngenioRx, earlier this year.
These deals have disrupted long-standing contracts between PBMs and insurers. They have also added pressure on drug manufacturers that continue to raise drug prices. Lawmakers are taking aim at surging drug prices through several bills.
Express Scripts manages pharmacy benefits for payers that cover more than 75 million people while Prime serves more than 28 million individuals.