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Health Care Up Amid Deal Activity -- Health Care Roundup

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03/08/2018 | 10:26pm CEST

Shares of health-care companies rose as a wave of multibillion-dollar deals continued. Health insurer Cigna plans to buy drug wholesaler Express Scripts Holding in a cash-and-stock deal worth $52 billion, excluding debt, that the companies say will expand their offerings and cut costs. The merger echoes the agreement by drug-store chain and pharmacy-benefit manager CVS Holding to buy Cigna's rival Aetna, in what analysts say is a trend of "vertical" integration, comparable to efforts to integrate different stages of the oil industry supply chain in decades past. Insurers and pharmaceutical distributors are adjusting to consumer sensitivity to rising health-care costs and changes in health-care regulation in the U.S. German health-care conglomerate Merck KGaA posted an increase in quarterly earnings.

-Rob Curran, rob.curran@dowjones.com

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