SaveSave story

Cigna reaches $52 billion deal to buy Express Scripts

Sign outside of Cigna headquarters.
The health insurance deal went public Thursday morning. Photo: James Leynse / Corbis via Getty Images

Health insurer Cigna has agreed to buy pharmacy benefit giant Express Scripts for $52 billion in cash and stock. Including debt, the deal is valued at $67 billion. The Wall Street Journal first reported about the deal Wednesday night.

The big picture: The health care industry continues to consolidate at a breakneck pace. CVS Health and Aetna are attempting to combine in a similar tie-up of health insurance and pharmacy benefit management. Numerous hospital systems and other health care companies also are rushing to merge in what has become an all-out turf war.

Driving the news: Anthem split ways with Express Scripts after Anthem said Express Scripts pocketed "obscene" profits from their prescription drug contract.

  • Because Express Scripts lost a highly profitable drug plan client, which drove a lot of negativity on Wall Street, Express Scripts became a takeover target.
  • We previously reported that Cigna had a lot of cash to spend and made it clear it would be on the prowl for some kind of deal after its merger with Anthem flopped. But it appears Medicare rival Humana is not on the table for now.
  • Health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers have been aligning more, like CVS and Aetna, in an attempt to save costs on drugs.
  • Yes, but: What's old is new again.
SaveSave story

The worst flu season in eight years

Note: Activity levels are based on outpatient visits in a state compared to the average number of visits that occur during weeks with little or no flu virus circulation; Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

This year's flu season caught many experts off guard with both its sustained prevalence and its virulence. At its peak, there was a higher level of flu-like illnesses reported than any other year during the past eight years. Watch in the visual as it hits its peak around Week 18.

Why it matters: Public health officials try to capture this data when developing the next year's vaccines. And, of course, they want to find better ways to prevent severe flu seasons. There's a "Strategic Plan" to develop a universal vaccine to protect against a wider range of influenza viruses, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios.

Shannon Vavra 3 hours ago
SaveSave story

What it's like to negotiate with North Korea

Cups and a weapon.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

President Trump may find himself in a difficult position as soon as he sits down with Kim Jong-un, according to Jim Walsh, who has been in the room for previous talks and says North Korea’s first pitch is often a curveball.

“I’ve been in settings [in which they] set it at the top of the meeting, ‘we’re not going to talk about denuclearization,’" Walsh told Axios. "People on the other side say ‘why the hell are we meeting?’”