Shareholders approve CVS-Aetna acquisition

CVS Pharmacy
Stockholders at both Aetna and CVS Health voted to approve a merger valued at $69 billion. (Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0)

Shareholders at both CVS Health and Aetna voted Tuesday to approve the drugstore chain's acquisition of the health insurer, a deal valued at $69 billion. 

Both companies held special meetings to approve the deal, with 98% of CVS shareholders voting in favor of the acquisition. Meanwhile, 97% of Aetna's shareholders voted to approve the deal. CVS and Aetna are hoping to close their merger by the end of the year, pending regulatory approval. 

Once the deal is finalized, the new joint entity will have the tools needed to offer a new community-focused model of health, CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said in an announcement.

"At the same time, our company will benefit from a stronger market position, with the potential to deliver increased value through the development of innovative new products and services and generate long-term growth opportunities that help produce stronger, more consistent results for shareholders as a uniquely integrated healthcare company," Merlo said. 

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CVS announced in December that it intended to purchase Aetna, with both companies making a case the union would focus on creating a more consumer-focused approach to healthcare. 

Since then, the companies have defended the potential merger against criticism that it may be anticompetitive. Consumer advocates have warned that the merger could lead Aetna to restrict services to some of its members—pushing them to use to CVS MinuteClinics or pharmacies—and that CVS could use its leverage to increase costs for its other pharmacy benefit management partners. 

The two companies, meanwhile, have argued that the deal will allow for more integrated care and will increase competition in the PBM space, and lower drug costs for patients.

RELATED: American Medical Association report: Health insurance markets increasingly concentrated 

The Department of Justice has requested additional information on the merger, and it's unclear whether it would survive an antitrust probe if one is launched. 

Last week, a similar vertical deal between a payer and PBM was unveiled as Cigna announced it would purchase Express Scripts, the largest PBM in the country, in a deal worth $67 billion. Analysts have already raised similar competition concerns about this deal, though they have said it could benefit patients through increased data sharing and greater price transparency.