Optum taps CMS, Blue Cross NC veteran Patrick Conway to lead PBM unit

Optum Rx has a new leader at the helm.

Patrick Conway, M.D., will step into the role as CEO of the pharmacy benefit management giant, which is one of the three that dominate this space, according to a post on his LinkedIn page. The PBM boasts 60 million members and processes 1.5 billion scripts per year, generating $115 billion in annual revenue, Conway said.

Conway most recently spent more than three years as the head of Optum Health Care Solutions, which runs the gamut from home health to behavioral health to population health. That segment has grown to include 70,000 employees and now serves more than 70 million people, Conway said.

"Pharmacy services have a major impact on people across the health care system, helping people access needed care and improving health outcomes, and the link between pharmacy and medical and behavioral care can be transformative," he wrote."I look forward to working with the team to make our pharmacy services the best they can be to better serve people and achieve a better health system for everyone."

Conway was also the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation from 2013 to 2017 and held other roles at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under the Obama administration.

His predecessor as Optum Rx CEO, Heather Cianfrocco, will become president of Optum, according to her Linkedin. In this role, she'll lead the company's pharmacy and care delivery offerings, according to UnitedHealth Group's website.

Cianfrocco joined UHG in 2008 and has served in multiple leadership positions in her tenure with the company. She became CEO of Optum Rx in April 2021.

Former Optum President John Prince departed the company in June, according to his LinkedIn, to become a senior advisor for venture capital firm TPG.

The leadership shakeup comes on the heels of news from the company that Optum Health would bring back Amar Desai, M.D., to lead that business. Optum Health CEO Wyatt Decker then moved into a newly-created role at UnitedHealth Group, becoming the chief physician of value-based care.

Conway said in the post that he looks forward to bringing his experiences at Optum Health Care Solutions to bear at the PBM.

"I have been honored to serve in Optum Health Care Solutions and will take all I’ve learned with me as I join the Optum Rx team," he wrote. "I look forward to working with them to help make the health system better for everyone."