WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission concluded its eight-month investigation into the proposed acquisition of Medco Health Solutions by Express Scripts for $29 billion Monday, determining that the merger of two of the largest pharmacy benefits managers is “not likely to substantially lessen competition” in the space.
The controversial decision provoked the ire of National Association of Chain Drug Stores and National Community Pharmacists Association who have fought the merger, citing potential harm to patients and competition. The industry groups, together with nine independent pharmacies filed a lawsuit Thursday to block the deal, stating that the consequences for patients and retail community pharmacies would be dire.
“We are disappointed that the FTC did not act to protect consumers in this instance,” said NACDS and NCPA in a statement. “It is worth noting that the merger proved controversial within the FTC. We commend Commissioner Julie Brill for her dissenting statement. In the end, two of four commissioners saw the need for remedies, and one of those commissioners wanted to challenge the merger in court.” Brill stated Monday that despite a majority of the commission having voted to close the investigation, she could not support the action.
Meanwhile, NACDS and NCPA are urging state attorneys general to take action to block the merger. The groups along with the other plaintiffs in the suit planned to file a motion Monday requesting that the judge direct ESI and Medco to keep separate assets pending review of the lawsuit and/or schedule an expedited review of the merits of its case.