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Published: Saturday, 2/12/2005

General Motors drops Walgreens as drug provider

General Motors employees will not be able to get prescriptions at a Walgreens pharmacy. FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS General Motors employees will not be able to get prescriptions at a Walgreens pharmacy. FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

DETROIT - General Motors Corp. is dropping Walgreen Co. from its network of prescription drug providers, saying it feared the huge drugstore chain might sever ties with the world's biggest automaker over GM's policy of requiring mail-order purchases of some drugs.

But Walgreen said it had no plans to cut ties to GM and hoped to continue serving its employees.

GM has informed its 1.1 million employees, retirees, and their spouses and dependents in the United States that effective March 1, they won't be able to fill prescriptions at Walgreen Co.'s 4,200-plus stores, the Detroit Free Press reported. The decision means about 10 percent of all GM-covered households that fill prescriptions will need to find a new participating retail pharmacy, the automaker said.

The automaker's prescription provider, New Jersey-based Medco Health Services, said in a letter to GM-covered enrollees that they could have prescriptions filled at chains such as those owned by CVS Corp. or Rite Aid Corp.

GM and Medco said they decided to cut ties with Walgreen out of concern it would stop doing business with GM, as it did last month with the state of Ohio. Walgreen, saying it disapproved of Ohio's mandatory mail-order program for some drugs, stopped accepting prescriptions from Ohio government employees on Jan. 1.

Oscar Bunch, president of Local 14 of the United Auto Workers, noted that Walgreen "is a mammoth operation" and said yesterday that while he did not know yet how the decision will affect his local's 3,500 members, "We will surely find out."

"We've already got problems as you know with the mail-in prescriptions," he added.

Pharmacies in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan have said they've been hurt by a requirement that Big Three auto workers with chronic conditions use a small-order prescription firm for their medicine rather than go to the neighborhood drugstore.

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