Angered by Walgreens deal, Express Scripts blocks access to Valeant's Glumetza

PBM giant Express Scripts ($ESRX) has long been a leader in the fight to tamp down drug prices, and now, it's using its formulary power to freeze out a diabetes drug from controversial Valeant ($VRX).

The company will exclude the Canadian drugmaker's Glumetza--an extended-release, brand-name version of generic med metformin--as soon as copycats become available on Feb. 1, it said Friday in a post on its website. Valeant hiked the price of Glumetza by more than 800% in 2015, Express Scripts says; as of July 31, the drug's list price stood at $10,020 for 90 tablets, up from $896 in January 2013, according to a Deutsche Bank analysis from last year.

"By excluding Glumetza from these formularies, Express Scripts clients are ensuring that their patients be dispensed the more affordable generic formulation of metformin," it said, noting that "branded Glumetza will not be allowed to process" under any circumstances.

Valeant has drawn plenty of political scrutiny for its price-hike strategy lately. On Thursday, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton slammed the company from the campaign trail, writing in a blog post that Valeant's pricing of a migraine drug was "predatory," "unjustified" and "wrong," Reuters reports.

And interim CEO Howard Schiller is scheduled to testify during a congressional price-hike hearing early next month; The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants more information on heart meds Isuprel and Nitropress, which the company jacked up by 536.7% and 236.6% after purchasing them from Marathon Pharmaceuticals last summer.

The drugmaker has been working to rehab its image, striking a pair of price-lowering deals with Walgreens ($WBA) late last year to offer branded meds at generic prices. But Express Scripts isn't having it.

"Recent agreements Valeant has signed with retail pharmacies now potentially encourage the pharmacies to bypass the more affordable generic metformin and instead dispense branded Glumetza at a higher cost to American payers," it said.

It's not the first time Express Scripts has targeted Valeant. Last October, it cut off Philidor, a specialty pharmacy one short-seller claimed Valeant was using to inflate its top line.

And as it works to keep a lid on drug prices--and preserve its own profits--it's taken aim at plenty of other drugmakers, too. In November, it cut off Linden Care, a specialty pharmacy that worked closely with Ireland's Horizon ($HZNP). The summer prior, it moved to exclude that pharma's arthritis pain-fighters Duexis and Vimovo, combos whose ingredients were already available as solo meds. And, of course, there was the hep C pricing war it touched off when it inked an exclusive agreement with AbbVie ($ABBV)--a move it made to protest the sky-high prices for Gilead ($GILD) therapies Sovaldi and Harvoni.

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