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Walgreens’ newsy week: A new CEO, and an expansion in telehealth


The pharmacy chain announced that Tim Wentworth is the new chief executive. Walgreens also unveiled plans for virtual care services launching this month.

Well, it’s certainly been an eventful week for America’s second-largest pharmacy chain.

Walgreens Boots Alliance has appointed Tim Wentworth as the company's new CEO, and the company is launching virtual care services in some states beginning in late October. (Image: Walgreens)

Walgreens Boots Alliance has appointed Tim Wentworth as the company's new CEO, and the company is launching virtual care services in some states beginning in late October. (Image: Walgreens)

Walgreens Boots Alliance announced that Tim Wentworth would become the company’s new chief executive officer earlier this week. Wentworth, the founding CEO of Evernorth, Cigna’s health services organization, succeeds Rosalind Brewer, who stepped down as Walgreens CEO in September.

Walgreens also announced at the HLTH 2023 Conference that the company plans to offer telehealth services directly to consumers, with virtual care offerings starting as soon as late October.

On top of that, some pharmacists walked off the job and the company released its annual earnings.

Walgreens has had a difficult year, with disappointing stock prices, but the company is aiming to reset.

The new leader

Even in Walgreens’ own press release hailing the installation of Wentworth, the company acknowledged he comes at a critical time. Walgreens is banking on Wentworth to lead the “right-sizing of the business,” while bringing better value for consumers and better returns for shareholders.

The company’s stock is down about 35% since the beginning of the year, even as the S&P 500 is up about 14% in 2023.

Wentworth was previously the CEO of Express Scripts, the country’s largest pharmacy benefit manager.

Walgreens has aimed to move beyond filling prescriptions and has made bigger moves into healthcare.

VillageMD, which is backed by Walgreens Boots Alliance, purchased Summit Health-CityMD in an $8.9 billion deal. Summit Health-CityMD offers primary, specialty and urgent care. Walgreens owns the majority of VillageMD, a primary care provider. Wentworth’s former company, Evernorth, also invested in the transaction.

Stefano Pessina, executive chairman of Walgreens Boots Alliance, called Wentworth “an accomplished and respected leader.”

“We are confident he is the right person to lead WBA’s next phase of growth into a customer-centric healthcare company,” Pessina said in the company’s news release.

Wentworth’s experience "should provide a solid base for understanding much of the nuance that (Walgreens) is currently navigating," said J.P. Morgan analyst Lisa Gill in a note, Reuters reported.

Wentworth does face dissatisfaction from some workers. Some Walgreens pharmacy staff walked off the job earlier this week to protest working conditions and staffing shortages, the Associated Press reports.

In its FY2023 earnings report released Thursday, Walgreens said it lost $180 million in the fourth quarter, which is better than the $415 million loss in the same quarter a year ago. Fiscal 2023 sales rose to $139.1 billion, a 4.8% increase.

Moving into virtual care

Walgreens made news at the HLTH Conference this week as it sketched out plans to offer telehealth appointments with Walgreens Virtual Healthcare. While VillageMD offers virtual services, Walgreens is making a much bigger move in telehealth.

Tracey D. Brown (Image: Walgreens)

Tracey D. Brown (Image: Walgreens)

The virtual care services will cover some basic needs, such as patients with flu, COVID-19, allergies, urinary tract infections and contraception.

Walgreens said visits will be priced at $33 out-of-pocket, with video appointment prices ranging from $36 to $75. The service is expected to launch before the end of October. Insurance is not accepted for Walgreens' telehealth visits, but it can be used to cover the cost of prescriptions.

The telehealth service will launch in select states initially, but Walgreens says virtual visits will be available in states covering half the U.S. population and half of the chain’s pharmacy customers.

"We're launching Virtual Healthcare at Walgreens this month because our goal is to be the most convenient health and wellness destination, whether you're physically in stores or visit Walgreens virtually in stores,” said Tracey D. Brown, EVP, president of Walgreens retail and chief customer officer.

More retailers are making forays into primary care and telehealth.

Last month, Costco said it had formed a partnership with Sesame to offer its members telehealth visits, starting at $29.

Earlier this year, Amazon completed its $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical, which offers primary care and virtual care. CVS Health announced in February that it is buying Oak Street Health in a $10.6 billion deal. CVS also completed the acquisition of Signify Health, a network focusing on delivering care at home, earlier this year.

Walmart is expanding its network of health clinics and the retail giant says it expects to operate more than 75 locations around the country by the end of 2024.

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