This week of HLTH has not been short of Big News from WBA, perhaps cleverly to ace out CVS, Amazon (facing retail monopoly charges from the FTC and 17 states), and Walmart. Regaining the lost momentum at Walgreens Boots Alliance will be a heavy lift.
Enter Tim Wentworth as CEO from retirement. Mr. Wentworth formerly helmed Express Scripts, coming on after that company’s acquisition of pharmacy benefits manager Medco. When Express Scripts was acquired by Cigna in 2018, he headed their health services area, now Evernorth, retiring from there at the end of 2021. He is exactly what executive chair Stefano Pessina (and the board) ordered–a younger executive (63) with CEO experience, energy, through-the-ranks background, and deep, deep experience in pharmacy management, payers, and healthcare. To CNBC on Tuesday, Mr. Wentworth said, “What made me decide to come back was a chance to lead this iconic brand and company at a time when it’s not in a steady state. It’s a massive platform…they touch almost 10 million people a day.” Plus undoubtedly an offer hard to refuse! He starts on 23 October. Walgreens replaced Roz Brewer, who departed 31 August [TTA 19 Sep], in record time. Her interim replacement, former pharma exec Ginger Graham, returns to her lead independent director spot on the WBA board. WBA release,
Walgreens recently missed earnings estimates for its Q3 ending in May [TTA 28 June] with underperformance problems in retail consumer sales and urgent care CityMD. They have been selling peripheral businesses and investments, with plans to lay off 10% (500) of its workforce. It doesn’t help the bottom line that Walgreens last month settled a class action lawsuit about its long-ago Theranos clinics in Arizona for a tidy $44 million.
There’s trouble from the streets to the suites right now. Pharmacy workers walked out on 300 Walgreens locations this past Monday through Wednesday. Their big issues are short-staffing and overwork. Demands are, according to an organizer talking to the AP: to improve transparency about shifting hours and schedules; to set aside training hours for new team members; and to adjust tasks and expectations at each location based on staffing levels. They are also organizing for union representation. Walgreens isn’t alone in this–CVS has also faced pharmacy worker walkouts. Fortune At the executive level, chief information officer Hsiao Wang left suddenly on 2 October after one year after a recent leave of absence. His departure was confirmed by Walgreens to industry publication PYMNTS. Neal Sample, a consultant and former CIO at Northwestern Mutual with experience at Express Scripts, will be stepping in on an interim basis. Retail Dive. This follows on Walgreens’ chief financial officer James Kehoe July departure after five years to join financial services firm FIS in August. Mr. Wentworth’s HR experience will come in handy on these issues.
On a positive note, WBA announced Monday at HLTH that its Walgreens Virtual Healthcare will start up in nine states later this month. Via their website, Virtual Healthcare will provide on-demand consults with providers on common medical conditions and for prescriptions. It will be available in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas, which represent almost half of the US population as well as Walgreens’ pharmacy customer base. It will be primarily clinician chat-based, with synchronous video visits for select conditions. Conditions treated include seasonal allergies, COVID-19 or flu, erectile dysfunction, hair loss, birth control, and other common health needs. Cash only–$33 for chat with video visits $36 to $75, which puts it in line with Amazon Clinic’s cash charge of $35 and $75 respectively. Insurance may come in the future. WBA has had telehealth through VillageMD locations and has actually had tele-dermatology service since 2016. Walgreens’ move, though, is a little tardy given Amazon Clinic’s national rollout after privacy issues delayed it on 1 August [TTA 1 Aug] and CVS’ Virtual Primary Care nationally with Amwell a year ago [TTA 12 Aug 22]. Healthcare Dive