CVS Caremark annual stockholders meeting rings optimistic tone

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — It was a rainy Thursday morning in Woonsocket, R.I., but that didn’t dissuade CVS Caremark stockholders from flocking to the company’s sprawling headquarters to attend its annual meeting of stockholders — an event that proved to be one filled with optimism as president and CEO Larry Merlo provided key highlights of 2011 and discussed how the company is reinventing pharmacy and capitalizing on its “integration sweet spots.”

“Our company is very well-positioned in an evolving healthcare market,” Merlo told shareholders.

Early on in the meeting, Merlo made note of Walgreens’ battle with Express Scripts, which resulted in a gain of 3 cents per share during CVS Caremark’s first quarter. Walgreens had about 90 million prescriptions a year it filled for Express Scripts — business that CVS Caremark believes it is well positioned to pick up. In fact, the Walgreens and Express Scripts impasse added about 350 to 400 basis points to CVS Caremark’s pharmacy comps during the first quarter, which equates to roughly 5.7 million to 6.5 million prescriptions.

For the second quarter, CVS Caremark is projecting a benefit of 3 cents to 4 cents per share, should the Walgreens-Express Scripts situation remain unresolved.

Merlo said its key to success is leveraging its integration sweets spots — those products and services that are unique to CVS Caremark because of its integrated model — and emerging growth opportunities.

For example its Maintenance Choice and Pharmacy Advisor products have “been highly successful.” There currently are roughly 10.5 million lives in Maintenance Choice and the company is expecting to see significant growth in the coming years fueled, in part, by the rollout the new version dubbed Maintenance Choice 2.0.

Meanwhile, there now are more than 16 million lives enrolled in its Pharmacy Advisor program. It is targeted to become available to both Medicare and Medicaid clients in 2013 and, once that occurs, it is estimated that the program could potentially touch nearly 47 millions.

Touching upon its pharmacy benefit manager business, Merlo told shareholders that it expects to add $12.6 billion in net new revenues in 2012, which is on top of a “great” selling season in 2011. Looking over the past two seasons, CVS Caremark has won more than $23 billion in net new business, Merlo said.

Merlo also discussed its MinuteClinic business, which, he said, gets “a fair amount of airtime with PBM clients” and undoubtedly is an important piece of its integrated strategy. MinuteClinic now has clinical affiliations with 15 major health systems across the country and is collaborating with Caremark to provide access to both acute and chronic care for Caremark members. As part of the effort, Caremark is offering clients an opportunity to change their benefit structure to reduce and, in some cases, completely eliminate co-pays at MinuteClinic.

Meanwhile, the company’s ExtraCare loyalty program, which boasts more than 69 million active cardholders; its digital strategy; store clustering initiative; and differentiated store brands will fuel front-end growth.

The bottom line is this: CVS Caremark is reinventing pharmacy. The company, Merlo said, is executing successfully on its initiatives and is “positioned for strong growth in 2012 and beyond.”

Before the meeting came to a close, Merlo noted that the company released on Thursday its 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, which, for the first time, the report includes an accounting of the company's political contributions and activities.