- UnitedHealth Inc. plans to purchase the pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran Corp. for $12.8 billion in cash. Catamaran, which is the country's fourth-largest pharmacy-benefit manager by volume of processed prescriptions, will be absorbed into UnitedHealth's OptumRx unit, currently the third-largest player in the US.
- OptumRx was already using a Catamaran technology platform, making for a smooth operational transition, according to the companies.
- The deal is part of an industry-wide effort to rein in burgeoning costs associated with specialty drugs like the Hepatitis C med Sovaldi. "You have to have scale," said Mark Thierer, the Catamaran chief executive who is poised to become chief executive of the new combined PBM. "This makes the business more competitive overall."
It remains to be seen how some of Catamaran's current payer clients will react to this announcement—some are direct competitors of UnitedHealth. Cigna, for example, struck a 10-year deal with the PBM in 2013. Thierer told The Wall Street Journal that he expects health plan customers will "see the benefit they will get from this relationship on all different levels."
According to The Journal, if the deal is completed, each of the three major PBMs—Express Scripts and CVS being the other two—would have "a different setup." Express Scripts currently sits in the leading position by volume of prescriptions, while CVS has its own chain of branded pharmacies.