Centene teams up with Walgreens on cloud-based PBM model 

Centene Corporation, Walgreens and pharmacy benefit manager RxAdvance announced this week that they’re joining forces to grow the use of a cloud-based PBM platform. 

The goal is to unite the strengths of all three companies—Centene's work in providing health coverage, Walgreens’ pharmacy knowledge and RxAdvance’s technology platforms—to drive lower costs and boost transparency, they announced Thursday.

The companies said in the announcement the partnership is also the result of a “growing need” for new PBM approaches, particularly to serve Medicaid patients. Centene, which has previously invested in RxAdvance, will increase its investment in the platform, and Walgreens will also kick in a “small” investment. 

“Collaboration between retail pharmacies and payers like Centene can further transform the way we provide care,” Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said in the announcement. 

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“Using RxAdvance’s Collaborative PBM Cloud, our partnership can empower our pharmacists to make critical decisions at the point of sale to help improve adherence and also to reduce avoidable medical costs,” Pessina said. 

RxAdvance’s cloud platform provides administrative tools for health plans to manage benefits and coverage options, alongside care management tools to boost adherence and track adverse events. The cloud platform also offers alerts to members on costs, potential generic substitutions and other data via an app. 

The companies have identified several markets to pilot their collaborative approach, according to the announcement, and also said they plan to make the cloud-based platform available to other insurers. 

The partnership tracks with the PBM industry’s trend of aligning far more closely with health plans, namely through vertical integration. Blockbuster acquisitions tied up Cigna with Express Scripts, the country’s largest PBM, and brought Aetna into the CVS Health fold, which also operates Caremark. 

UnitedHealth Group is the poster child for this type of integration, operating both UnitedHealthcare plans and OptumRx PBM contracts. Anthem has also broken off its relationship with Express Scripts and instead launched its own PBM, IngenioRx

The news also comes as Centene is navigating its own merger with WellCare Health Plans, a $17 billion deal that could create one of the nation’s largest sponsors of government health plans.