Largest electronic prescribing entities merge

And the two shall become one. 

The two largest electronic prescription networks have merged and it might just make electronic prescriptions a service physicians and patients actually use. Currently, pharmacies receive about 1.5 million prescriptions per year, but a barely noticeable two percent of these are digital prescriptions. 

The companies have come together in a truly modern--and yes, hyphenated--union, now called SureScripts-RxHub. A group of retailers that includes heavy hitters Wal-Mart, Walgreen and Rite Aid have thus far operated SureScripts. CVS Caremark, ExpressScripts and Medco Health Systems operate RxHub, a joint venture between the pharmacy benefit managers. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association founded SureScripts.

Electronic prescriptions have some major potential benefits, including fewer lost prescriptions and--more importantly--fewer prescribing errors (presumably due in part to less illegible MD scribbling), but docs aren't taking advantage of the digital drug era thus far. Together, the network expects to pass on 100 million prescriptions electronically this year and potentially triple the market for digital prescribing.

According to Dow Jones Newswires reports, there are no antitrust issues with the "cashless merger" deal, since the combined fair market value of the LLC is not large enough even to require antitrust review. J.P. Little, current CEO of RxHub said the companies believe this will "be a great kick-start to taking electronic prescribing to the next level.'' Still, it remains unclear when the two companies will begin functioning in unison.

- read the Wall Street Journal article
- and see the WSJ blog entry
- here's a Washington Post article for more