Cigna-Express Scripts deal gets U.S. antitrust approval

Office workstation top view of business people working around M&A keyboard calculator phablet and money on wooden table- merger and acquisition concept

If both deals close successfully, the nation's largest PBMs will all be aligned with the three largest payers, creating impressive, vertically-integrated healthcare entities.

The Justice Department's six-month review found that the merger is "unlikely to result in harm to competition or consumers" due to Cigna's small nationwide PBM business and the preponderance of other PBMs in the market. The deal won't significantly reduce competition for the services provided by pharmacy-benefits managers or raise costs for Cigna's rivals, the department said in a statement. These were Aetna's thought to develop smaller US properly being insurer Humana Inc (HUM.N) for $37 billion, and a deliberate $54 billion combination of insurers Anthem Inc (ANTM.N) and Cigna.

Health insurer Cigna Corp's $52 billion acquisition of pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co has passed US antitrust scrutiny, the companies said on Monday, allowing them to proceed with a combination they say will lead to lower costs by better coordinating pharmacy and medical benefits.

However, the deal comes at a time when pharmacy benefit managers like Express Scripts are facing increasing scrutiny by the public and federal regulators, who accuse such organizations of encouraging and profiting off of ever-increasing drug prices, Bloomberg's Max Nisen reports. Express Scripts also owns specialty pharmacies that distribute pricey drugs.

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Officials at Bloomfield, Conn. -based Cigna and St. Louis-based Express Scripts have said their merger would drive higher quality care and affordability by offering insurance and pharmacy services under one roof.

Cigna and Express Scripts said 16 states have approved the merger already. "... The Justice Department review of CVS's planned purchase of Aetna may conclude this month, but will take longer because of divestitures needed to resolve competitive concerns, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters". But Icahn abandoned his efforts to derail the merger after two independent advisory firms recommended shareholders approve it. Cigna and Express Scripts' investors approved the deal in late August.

"The value that we deliver together will help put our society on a far more sustainable path - one that helps health care professionals close gaps in care and supports our customers along their health journey", said Cigna CEO David Cordani. The deal is described as a "vertical merger", meaning it involves companies at different points in the supply chain that do not directly compete for customers. CVS and Aetna shares also rose, closing up 1.5 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

The Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has cleared the pending merger between Cigna Corporation and Express Scripts Holding Company, the companies announced in a statement issued today.

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