UnitedHealth Group’s announcement that its free-standing pharmacy care services business, OptumRx, will merge with Catamaran Corp., the fourth largest pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) in the U.S., makes sense, according to industry experts.
“This is a smart acquisition well aligned with UnitedHealth’s strategy—increasing their market power, adding to their suite of technology and benefit management offerings, further diversifying their non-risk business, and better positioning them for the rapidly changing post-ACA delivery system and specialty pharmacy market,” says Kip Piper, MA, FACHE, advisor with Sellers Dorsey, a Medicaid consultancy in Washington, D.C. “It will increase their already formidable leverage in pharma, biotech, and pharmacy price negotiations. UnitedHealth will no doubt take advantage of the wealth of data, IT savvy, and diverse client base Catamaran brings to the deal.”
This merger is consistent with the types of consolidation being seen within the industry, according to Robert Taketomo, PharmD, MBA, president and CEO, Ventegra.
“However, it remains to be seen in this particular case how the desired efficiencies from scale will impact the ability to adapt to a healthcare environment in flux, and how potential channel conflict with health plan clients will be addressed,” Taketomo says.
The agreement calls for the acquisition of Catamaran’s outstanding common stock for $61.50 per share in cash. The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2015, subject to Catamaran shareholders’ approval, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The combination diversifies OptumRx’s customer and business mix, while accelerating its technology leadership and flexible service offerings.