Government approves Cigna-Express Scripts merger

Justice Department OKs Cigna's $52 billion acquisition of Express Scripts

Cigna gets DOJ approval to buy St. Louis based Express Scripts

The U.S. Department of Justice approved the proposed $52 billion merger between Cigna and Express Scripts Sept. 17.

"We are pleased that the Department of Justice has cleared our transaction and that we are another step closer to completing our merger and delivering greater affordability, choice and predictability to our customers and clients as a combined company", Cigna president and CEO David Cordani says in a statement. "The companies still need to get the okay from state insurance agencies, of which they've gotten 16 so far, the companies said in a release Monday", Lydia Ramsey writes for Business Insider.

The deal, which has already secured shareholder approval, is expected to close at the end of the year. The merger is unlikely to lessen competition substantially in the sale of PBM services because Cigna's PBM business nationwide is small, the DOJ stated.

In the statement, Cigna and Express Scripts said the DOJ has cleared the pending merger, "terminating the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976".

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"If Cigna is allowed to become the latest in the trend to take PBM needs in-house, it is more likely that consumers could end up at the mercy of a handful of giants - each with its own siloed services - and the choices they now enjoy for medical care and pharmacy needs becoming a thing of the past", Consumers Union senior policy counsel told USA lawmakers earlier this year.

"Both companies argue that the merger will benefit consumers by allowing Cigna and Express Scripts to better manage their customers' health by sharing information about both their medical and drug expenses".

Aetna and Cigna, however, were determined to seek growth through deals while responding to a changing healthcare landscape, eventually targeting mergers with the nation's largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). "The Justice Division overview of CVS's deliberate snatch of Aetna is wrapping up and might per chance per chance moreover produce this month, but will take longer due to the divestitures compulsory to resolve aggressive issues", a offer familiar with the matter immediate Reuters. CVS and Aetna shares also rose, closing up 1.5 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

"States could still conduct a public hearing. though it is very unlikely that they do not align with the U.S. Department of Justice's decision", Leerink analyst Ana Gupte said.

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Cigna and Express Scripts, based in St. Louis, announced the deal in March, saying it would help control health care costs as consolidation picks up in the insurance and pharmacy benefits management industries.

Icahn, who built a stake in Cigna, urged shareholders earlier this summer to vote against the deal.

Express Scripts at the time was concerned about continuing as a standalone PBM when so many competitors were consolidating and new entrants like Amazon were rumored to be scoping out the healthcare market.

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