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Now that an official proposal has been announced, how are industry leaders responding?
It’s nearly impossible to understate just how important the CVS acquisition of Aetna will be for the pharmacy world.
What makes the deal so attractive for CVS-threats from Amazon, a desire to be more like UnitedHealthcare, pressure to move away from traditional dispensing model, and more-says a lot about the future of all pharmacy.
Now that the deal is no longer just Wall Street speculation, nearly every player in the pharmacy industry seems to have a say on what the deal will mean for CVS and Aetna customers (and pharmacists). The deal is still subject to antitrust scrutiny and while most analysts say the deal will go through, some speculate about its future.
To help you sort through this very complicated issue, here are five quotes from around the pharmacy world on what a future with a merged CVS and Aetna will look like. From pharmacy groups to financial analysts, here’s what you need to know.
In an op-ed for Fortune:
“The proposed consolidation of Aetna and CVS can be viewed as a natural step in the evolution of both companies. CVS began as a pharmacy chain, acquired pharmacy benefit management (PBM) capacity, and added numerous Minute Clinics to provide easy access and low-cost usual care, then discontinued the sale of tobacco products as it changed its name to CVS Health.
“At the same time Aetna, along with other large national insurers, has been converting from largely wholesale operations focused on the employer to more retail operations infused with an emphasis on consumerism. This is reflected not only in the emergence of consumer-directed health insurance benefits, which are designed to give consumers more ‘skin in the game,’ but also in an array of direct-to-consumer outreach efforts, many of which aid patients in navigating the health care system and managing their own health and wellness.
“With these trends in mind it becomes clear why CVS and Aetna would want to partner. The resulting company would have unprecedented points of attachment to consumers on a national scale. CVS brings a national network of over 10,000 retail pharmacies including well over 1,000 Minute Clinics, and a large PBM, which manages pharmaceutical services for millions of customers. Aetna brings a brand name national insurance operation and a respected portfolio of health care management capacities, ranging from programs on precision medicine (such as genetic testing and counseling to guide patients’ responses to new genetic information) to end-of-life care and numerous case management and disease management programs. Perhaps most importantly, it delivers over 22 million Aetna members to the CVS franchise.”
From an NCPA statement:
"For all of the talk about cost savings, prescription drug costs have clearly continued to rise despite previous vertical mergers like UnitedHealth's 2015 acquisition of Catamaran. Moreover, the anticipated efficiencies CVS and Aetna tout may benefit the merged company more than the consumer, who is likelier to be driven to use health care resources chosen by the health plan rather than those of his or her own choosing.
“…"We believe that one possible driver for this merger is the increased scrutiny on the role pharmacy benefit managers play and the growing evidence that they contribute to the higher costs of prescription drugs. The main source of purported cost savings touted by CVS and Aetna may be in containing the costs PBMs add to prescriptions.
"Control and manipulation of patient data is also a concern. Consumers should have the freedom to choose the providers that produce the highest quality health outcomes and cost-effectiveness, rather than being coerced into using certain physicians or pharmacies.
"In short, bigger is not always better. A close examination of whether this acquisition will lead to higher drug prices and fewer quality and convenience options for consumers is warranted."
From an investor call:
"Think of a Genius Bar at Apple and this ability at the store to walk in and get help. I think this is the kind of idea we want to create in the stores."
From a CVS press release:
“This is the next step in our journey, positioning the combined company to dramatically further empower consumers. Together with CVS Health, we will better understand our members’ health goals, guide them through the health care system and help them achieve their best health. Aetna has a proud tradition of continually innovating to address unmet consumer needs and providing leading products and services to the marketplace.”
In a Reuters interview:
“It’s the lower overall cost of therapy. It’s not just the drugs. It’s not just the PBM (prescription benefit manager). It’s the overall outcome for the patient.”
In a CVS statement:
This combination brings together the expertise of two great companies to remake the consumer health care experience. With the analytics of Aetna and CVS Health's human touch, we will create a health care platform built around individuals. We look forward to working with the talented people at Aetna to position the combined company as America's front door to quality health care, integrating more closely the work of doctors, pharmacists, other health care professionals and health benefits companies to create a platform that is easier to use and less expensive for consumers."
"These types of interventions [interventions to fight chronic disease] are things that the traditional health care system could be doing, but the traditional health care system lacks the key elements of convenience and coordination that help to engage consumers in their health. That's what the combination of CVS Health and Aetna will deliver."
In an interview with CNN Money:
"The issues in the CVS-Aetna merger are not all going to be similar to those in AT&T-Time Warner. I would expect a careful review, but it's premature to say if the merger will be blocked … We've had 35 years of light antitrust enforcement, and now there are growing signs of skepticism. If companies expected leniency with a Republican president -- that assumption is being challenged by the AT&T merger."