Walgreens Plans to Double Robot Pharmacy Use


Walgreens wants to double the number of prescriptions being filled by its robot-powered micro fulfillment centers, the pharmacy chain’s chief executive said Thursday (June 30).

Speaking on a conference call to announce third quarter 2022 earnings results, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer said those centers, first launched earlier this year, now fill about 20% of the company’s prescriptions.

Eventually, Walgreens hopes to get that number to 40% to 50%. The company recently opened a fourth center, which supports about 1,100 stores.

The company has argued that this shift allows its pharmacists to spend more time interacting with their patients.

Read more: Walgreens Boots Alliance Leverages Robots for Pharmaceutical Fulfillment

Among the factors driving up costs for the quarter was a 15% increase in selling, general and administrative expenses — from $5 billion to $5.7 billion year-over-year — driven in part by a $683 million opioid settlement with the state of Florida.

Sales also dropped due to a steep decline in COVID-19 vaccinations. Overall, sales were down 4.2%, to $32.6 billion from $34.03 billion last year at this time.

Earlier this week, Walgreens announced it had declined to hold onto its British arm Boots, as well as its cosmetics brand No7.

Learn more: Walgreens’ Transformation Will Include Boots … For Now

The company had received a joint offer from India’s Reliance Industries and American private equity firm Apollo Global Management for a sale that could have been valued at as much as $7.5 billion.

Brewer said Tuesday (June 28) it was ultimately in shareholders’ best interest for the company to stay focused on growth and profitability at the two businesses, which she said had continued to perform well in spite of a tough economic climate.

According to the earrings report, Boots’ retail comparable sales rose by 24%, while Walgreen’s U.S. retail sales — minus tobacco products — rose by just 2.4%.

“Since launching the process, the global financial markets have suffered unexpected and dramatic change,” the company said of its decision. “As a result of market instability severely impacting financing availability, no third party has been able to make an offer that adequately reflects the high potential value of Boots and No7 Beauty Company.”