CVS Health Corp. is set to win U.S. antitrust approval to buy Aetna Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter, clearing the way to form a health-care giant that will have a hand in insurance, prescription-drug benefits and drugstores across the U.S.
The Justice Department’s antitrust division will sign off on a settlement resolving the government’s investigation of the $68 billion takeover as soon as Wednesday, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the decision.
A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment. A CVS spokesman declined to comment, though the company has previously said that it expects the deal to close early in the fourth quarter.
Aetna shares rose 2.2 percent to $208.10 at 8:58 a.m. in New York, before the markets opened. CVS gained 1.3 percent to $80.50.
Aetna last month agreed to sell its Medicare prescription-drug business to WellCare Health Plans Inc. to alleviate the Justice Department’s concerns that a takeover by CVS would otherwise harm competition among plans that sell pharmaceutical coverage through Medicare.
The Aetna acquisition is among the most significant health-care mergers of the past decade, combining one of the top U.S. drugstore chains with the third-biggest health insurer. Along with its thousands of retail pharmacies, CVS manages drug-benefits plans for employers and insurers, a business that could help steer Aetna’s customers into its pharmacies. It’s also an opportunity to use the brick-and-mortar presence of the drugstores as centers where people can get more types of medical care.
Consolidation has risen across health care among hospitals, drugmakers and insurers. Health insurer Cigna Corp. last month won antitrust clearance to buy pharmacy-benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co., combining two more major players in the health services sector. Both deals followed blocked attempts to merge with rival health insurers.
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