CVS-Aetna deal cleared


CVS Health Corp. and Aetna Inc received conditional approval to proceed with their proposed $68 billion merger, one of the largest in a series of recent deals that stand to transform the US health-care business.
The combination would create a giant with a hand in insurance, prescription-drug benefits and drugstores across the US. By bringing those businesses under one roof, the companies are betting they’ll be better-positioned to face changing consumer habits and the emergence of new rivals.
The Justice Department’s antitrust division signed off on the transaction with the caveat that the companies complete an agreed-to sale of Aetna’s Medicare prescription-drug plans to another insurer. Doing so, the regulator said in a statement, would resolve its concerns that the deal could harm consumers.
“The divestitures required here allow for the creation of an integrated pharmacy and health-benefits company that has the potential to generate benefits by improving the quality and lowering the costs of the health-care services that American consumers can obtain,” Makan Delrahim, the head of the department’s antitrust division, said in the statement.
The Aetna acquisition is among the most significant health-care mergers of the past decade, combining one of the top US drugstore chains with the third-biggest health insurer. Along with its thousands of retail pharmacies, CVS mana-ges drug-benefits plans for employers and insurers.
The approval comes just a few weeks after the US signed off on another deal combining a big health insurer with a pharmacy-benefits manager — Cigna Corp.’s $54 billion take-over of Express Scripts Holding Co. And it follows a recent foray by Inc. into the drug business with its $1 billion purchase of online prescription company PillPack.

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