8 things to know about the changes coming to CVS and Walgreens in 2019


There are a lot of big shakeups coming to the retail pharmacy business.

You may have heard the news that CVS completed its $78 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna late last year.

But dig beneath the surface and you’ll see there are several parallel developments going on at archrival Walgreens, as well.

2019 pharmacy business updates: Mergers, new floor plans, expanded services and more

Get ready for some changes to the way you shop…


CVS Pharmacy sign

CVS has more than 9,800 pharmacy locations and 1,100 MinuteClinic walk-in clinics in its portfolio.

After formally closing its acquisition of Aetna in November 2017, the pharmacy chain has several new developments in the pipeline that you’ll want to be on the lookout for.

1. CVS is going all in with SmileDirectClub

smiledirect club cvs image

Following a successful pilot experiment, CVS now says it will broaden access to SmileDirectClub and its clear aligners through SmileShops in hundreds of CVS Pharmacies during 2019.

The online seller of invisible braces is currently only physically in a handful of CVS retail locations; there are SmileShops in 13 CVS Pharmacies in eight states at the moment.


So this is a big move!

2. CVS is now selling cannabis-based products in 8 states

CBD oil

The pharmacy chain is offering a variety of cannabidiol (CBD) products that contain a non-psychoactive cannabis compound. The CBD is infused into a variety of topicals such as creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions and salves

CBD products can be found for sale in the following states:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Tennessee

3. Your local pharmacy store will be reimagined 

Look for more durable medical equipment for sale, a wider range of vision and hearing services being offered and other new developments to be announced.

CVS CEO Larry Merlo tells USA Today that store may also “partner broadly with others in the community around elements that indirectly impact health care.”

Think outside-of-the-box kind of ideas like offering transportation for patients to checkups and “access to food services” right at your local store.

4. CVS promises savings of $75 on some prescriptions thanks to new technology

The rollout of a proprietary tool called RX Saving Finder that began in mid-2018 is continuing in 2019.

With this tool, the chain’s pharmacists can run your prescription and check for three things:

  • Cheaper alternative scripts
  • Volume discounts (buy higher quantities at lower cost)
  • General manufacturer discounts

Additionally, the RX Savings Finder will identify generics or other therapies that could be cheaper and still work for your medical condition.


CVS reports the approximate savings patients have seen from RX Saving Finder has been in the range of $75 per script.

5. CVS to expand MinuteClinic virtual visit access nationwide

For the remainder of 2019, CVS will broaden customer access to virtual house calls through the CVS Pharmacy app from a handful of states to around the country. Soon, MinuteClinic virtual visits will be available nationwide where allowed by law.

A health care professional will virtually “see” you for a variety of minor illnesses, minor injuries, skin conditions and women’s services right through your phone. No need to leave your home!

A virtual visit cost $59 and can be paid by the following methods:

  • Credit
  • Debit
  • FSA
  • HSA


Walgreens operates 9,560 drugstores with some 400 locations offering Healthcare Clinic or other provider retail clinic services.

Here’s what’s new with Walgreens…

walgreens sign

6. Floor space is being shaken up to take on Amazon

CVS isn’t the only company posing a threat to Walgreens. As Amazon looks to muscle its way into the health care business, Walgreens thinks it has found a way to beat the e-commerce giant back.

In a suburban Chicago store near its corporate headquarters, Walgreens is prototyping the pharmacy of the future. The following products are getting front-end billing is the redesign:

  • Beauty products
  • OTC medications
  • Supplements
  • Toiletries and more

What’s not feeling the love in the new floor layout? Candy, snacks and seasonal decorations. All three of those are banished to the back, according to a brand-new report from Business Insider.


The new arrangement also reportedly creates more space for ancillary health services like hearing screenings, eye exams and lab tests.

7. Walgreens is planning a major multi-year expansion of its LabCorp partnership

The 17 LabCorp sites that are now open inside the pharmacy will grow more than 35 times over to a minimum of 600 by 2021, according to a new agreement.

The LabCorp-at-Walgreens collaboration gives customers a place to drop off specimens for diagnostic testing.

8. Kroger and Walgreens are teaming up on a new pilot store format

Ever wanted to order Kroger grocery items online and pickup your order at a closer more conveniently located Walgreens? Your wish is coming true — at least at 13 Walgreens stores in Northern Kentucky near Kroger’s Cincinnati headquarters.

According to a recent press release, the two companies are testing out a new format “that combines Kroger’s role as America’s grocer and food authority with Walgreens global expertise in pharmacy, health and beauty.”

Meanwhile, some are speculating this may just be a precursor to Kroger selling off its pharmacy business to Walgreens.

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