Cigna Is Said to Near Deal to Buy Express Scripts, WSJ Says

(Bloomberg) -- Insurer Cigna Corp. is said to be nearing an agreement to buy Express Scripts Holding Co. in the latest of a flurry of deals among U.S. companies that manage health benefits.

A transaction could be announced as soon as Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. In Express Scripts, Cigna would acquire a pharmacy benefits manager with a market value of about $41 billion that negotiates prices with drugmakers for insurers and employers.

Health giants including insurers, drug benefit managers and pharmacy chains are embroiled in a round of consolidation in an effort to gain control of the industry’s massive spending. CVS Health Corp. unveiled a $67.5 billion deal for insurer Aetna Inc. late last year that the companies said would save $750 million in costs and bring consumers better, more efficient care.

That deal is sure to get scrutiny: Regulators have blocked some of the industry’s biggest mergers, including one proposed by Cigna and Anthem Inc. and another attempted by Aetna and Humana Inc.

The move comes as St. Louis-based Express Scripts is losing its biggest client. Last year, health insurer Anthem said it would set up its own pharmacy benefits management unit, signaling a final break with Express Scripts after accusing it of overcharging by billions of dollars.

Express’ loss of Anthem after 2019 has put pressure on the company amid rapid consolidation in the pharmacy-benefit management industry. In December, CVS Health Corp. agreed to combine with Aetna Inc. in a $67.5 billion deal.

Shares of Express Scripts dropped 1.6 percent Wednesday in New York.

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