Justice Department OKs Cigna-Express Scripts Merger

Speed of approval surprises some experts, though states still have to sign off on Cigna’s $67 billion purchase of the pharmacy benefits manager.

In what has been called a possible game-changing development in health care, the Department of Justice today approved of Cigna’s proposed purchase of the biggest PBM in the country, Express Scripts. The top dogs at both companies did not waste time voicing their excitement in a statement.

Cigna President and CEO David Cordani: “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. 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.”

Tim Wentworth, CEO of Express Scripts: “Together, we believe we will be able to do even more to reduce healthcare costs, expand choice, and improve patient outcomes. 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.”

They have reason to be worthy. As Forbes reports, the deal has been under attack from several quarters, including billionaire Carl Icahn and Sen. Chuck Grassley. Icahn had changed course and eventually said that he supports the deal, but Grassley had called for a “rigorous review” of both the Cigna-Express Scripts deal and CVS Health’s proposed purchase of Aetna.

Forbes: “The earlier-than-expected DOJ clearance of the health insurer Cigna's acquisition of the giant pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) Express Scripts comes even before the justice department has announced any approval of the CVS Health acquisition of Aetna, surprising some analysts considering the Express Scripts-Cigna deal was announced later.”

Both deals are manifestations of a spree of health care cross-business mergers that have seen stakeholders who’ve been in their silos for years starting to break out: with health plans purchasing huge providers and PBMS, while big hospital systems team up with health plans.