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DOJ clears Cigna, Express Scripts deal

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
The Cigna and Express Scripts $52 billion acquisition deal has moved forward, as the companies have announced that U.S. Department of Justice antitrust regulators have now cleared their pending merger.

“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,” David Cordani, president and chief executive officer of Cigna, said in a statement. “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.”

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The move from health insurer Cigna and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts may improve care and cut costs for patients, as the companies advise, but it also comes in a fast-changing landscape as competitors grow and chase deals of their own – as well as in the midst of both political pressures over healthcare costs and Amazon's impending entry into the game.

“Today’s decision is one more important milestone in our effort to combine two innovative health services leaders into a company that will transform health care,” according to Tim Wentworth, president and chief executive officer of Express Scripts.

Shareholders gave the deal the nod last month, despite objections from investor Carl Icahn, whose open letter begged stockholders to nix the deal, according to CNBC.

After the review, DOJ's Antitrust Division found that the combination “is unlikely to result in harm to competition or consumers,” assistant attorney general of the antitrust division Makan Delrahim said in a statement.

The review found that there would still be “at least two large pharmacy benefit management firms and several smaller in the market” and that it would be hard for Cigna “to increase PBM costs” for other insurers because of competition from other integrated insurer-PBM players.

“The Cigna-Express Scripts deal is essentially a replication of what UnitedHealth has done,” Brad Haller, a consultant and director of mergers & acquisitions at West Monroe Partners, told the business news network.

With this approval, the firms now anticipate the deal to close on schedule by the end of 2018, assuming the completion of other customary closing conditions.
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