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Cigna shareholders approve Express Scripts deal

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Insurer expects deal to close this year

BROOMFIELD, Conn. — Cigna Corp. shareholders voted Friday to approve the health insurer’s $52 billion purchase of PBM Express Scripts Holding Co.

The vote in favor of the acquisition came after activist investor Carl Icahn last week gave up a last-minute effort to get shareholders to nix the deal.

The purchase still must be approved by antitrust officials. The  Department of Justice’s  review of the combination that is not expected to be completed until later this year.

Around nine in 10 votes cast were in favor of the merger, Cigna said, based on preliminary results. The company expects the deal to close by year end.

The insurer agreed to buy the PBM in March, saying the two companies could cut health care costs for clients if they better coordinated medical care with prescriptions.

But  Express Scripts has subsequently been attacked by the Trump administration, legislators and pharma companies as being a middleman that inflates drug costs.

Icahn had contended that Cigna was overpaying given the likelihood of reduced profits. He backed away after shareholder advisory groups advocated support for the deal.

Express Scripts shareholders also approved the deal, with about 78% of outstanding shares cast in support.

Cigna’s plan for the merger comes as Express Scripts’ major rival, CVS Health, moves ahead with its own merger, with Aetna Inc. Cigna’s deal to be bought by Anthem Inc. collapsed in 2017 after it failed to pass antitrust review.


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