April 11 (Bloomberg) -- A federal judge is considering a bid by pharmacy trade groups to halt Express Scripts Inc.’s $29.1 billion acquisition of Medco Health Solutions Inc.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon yesterday heard three hours of arguments in a lawsuit filed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and independent pharmacies that claim the transaction approved by U.S. regulators violates antitrust laws because it will reduce competition and lead to less services available to retail pharmacy customers. The judge said she will rule on the case later.
Bissoon is considering an emergency request by the trade groups seeking an order to “hold separate Medco’s assets and operations” while the lawsuit is pending. Bissoon, who asked questions of both parties, ended the hearing without giving any indication of how or when she may rule.
Express Scripts, which completed its purchase of Medco on April 2 after receiving approval from the Federal Trade Commission, asked that the lawsuit be dismissed because the trade groups waited too long to file the challenge. The companies agreed to the deal in July.
Clifford Aronson, a lawyer for Express Scripts, said more than $230 million has already been spent on integration and competitive information has already been shared. Halting the acquisition now would lead to a loss of employees and customers as health plan managers wouldn’t want to sign up companies with such uncertainty, he said yesterday.
“The injury to Express Scripts would be huge,” Aronson told Bissoon.
The groups, representing retail pharmacies, sued St. Louis-based Express Scripts and Medco on March 29 and requested an injunction to stop the companies’ integration the next day.
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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