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Express Scripts in Dispute With WellPoint Over 2009 Deal Issues

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Express Scripts Inc., the pharmacy-benefits manager planning to merge with Medco Health Solutions Inc., is in a “contractual dispute” with WellPoint Inc. that may lead to litigation, the companies said.

The dispute involves the interpretation of certain terms of Express Scripts’s 2009 purchase of WellPoint’s NextRx pharmacy-benefits division, St. Louis-based Express Scripts said today in a regulatory filing and WellPoint said in an e-mail.

WellPoint, based in Indianapolis, raised the dispute and the possibility of a lawsuit, Express Scripts said. Both companies said they are seeking to resolve the matter through discussions though litigation remains possible. Express Scripts acquired WellPoint’s NextRx unit, with 25 million members, on Dec. 1, 2009, for $4.7 billion.

Express Scripts declined 2.9 percent to $43.10 at 5:25 p.m. New York time in extended trading after closing at $44.40. WellPoint was unchanged in extended trading after dropping 1.2 percent to close at $64.64.

“The dispute relates to the interpretation of certain financial contractual terms in the PBM agreement and certain operational matters associated with Express Scripts’s performance,” Kristin Binns, a WellPoint spokeswoman, said in the e-mail.

Express Scripts agreed in July to buy rival Medco to create the biggest pharmacy benefits manager in the U.S. The deal requires clearance from the Federal Trade Commission. Pharmacy benefits managers act as middlemen among drugmakers, pharmacies and health-plan sponsors to negotiate prices and manage the use of drugs by patients.

To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at mpeterson9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at abettelheim@bloomberg.net.

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