The judge overseeing a private antitrust lawsuit seeking to block Express Scripts Inc. (ESRX)’s acquisition of Medco Health Solutions Inc. (MHS) set a hearing for April 10 on a request for an injunction to undo the deal.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon in Pittsburgh today scheduled the hearing after a telephone conference with lawyers for the company and the trade groups suing to prevent the deal, which was approved yesterday by the Federal Trade Commission. She ordered Express Scripts to respond by April 6.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and independent pharmacies yesterday filed the emergency request to “hold separate Medco’s assets and operations,” hours after the $29.1 billion acquisition closed.
The trade groups sued Express Scripts and Medco on March 29, claiming the deal would violate antitrust laws by reducing competition and raising consumer prices. They filed a request for a temporary restraining order the following day.
“We believe the suit is without merit,” said Express Scripts spokesman Brian Henry in an e-mail.
Express Scripts, based in St. Louis, agreed in July to buy Franklin Lakes, New Jersey-based Medco, saying that consumers would get more power to negotiate prices from the combined companies. The deal creates the largest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S. The companies act as middlemen among drugmakers, pharmacies and health-plan sponsors to manage patients’ benefits.
The Federal Trade Commission approved the purchase by a 3-1 vote yesterday. Clearance was unconditional, with the commissioners saying their eight-month review of the deal found “a competitive market for pharmacy benefit management services.”
The case is National Association of Chain Drug Stores v. Express Scripts, 2:12-cv-00395, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh).
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