Express Scripts Closes $29.1 Billion Merger

Article excerpt

Express Scripts Inc. on Monday created the nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager by completing its $29.1 billion acquisition of Medco Health Solutions Inc., while an alliance of drugstores and community pharmacists vowed to keep fighting the deal in federal court in Pittsburgh.

The Federal Trade Commission approved the acquisition in a 3-1 vote, clearing the last hurdle. St. Louis-based Express Scripts then completed its purchase of Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based Medco, saying the combined company will drive down health care costs.

The FTC said its eight-month antitrust review found "a competitive market for pharmacy benefit management services."

But the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and National Community Pharmacists Association disagreed. The two Alexandria, Va.- based groups said they've "aggressively fought this merger from day one because of its potential harm to patients and to competition."

The associations and 16 pharmacy owners and other businesses said in a lawsuit filed last week that they fear that a giant pharmacy benefits manager with too much leverage and market share will slash local pharmacists' reimbursements for filling prescriptions.

Pharmacy benefits managers run prescription drug plans for employers, government agencies and other clients, using their large purchasing power to negotiate lower prices. They make money by reducing costs for health plan sponsors and members.

In a joint statement, CEOs Steven C. Anderson of the drug store association and Douglas Hoey of the pharmacists' group said they will push for an expedited court review of their case and ask the judge to direct Express Scripts and Medco to keep their assets separate for now.

Judge Cathy Bissoon scheduled a telephone status conference for this morning, according to court records. …