Is Express Scripts Getting Its Wish?

The takeover of Medco Health Solutions (NYSE:MHS) by pharmacy-benefits manager Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX) is close to getting Federal Trade Commission approval, and could be closed by early next week.

The companies submitted separate regulatory filings saying each “expects the parties may be in a position to close the transaction as early as the week of April 2, 2012, subject to satisfaction or waiver of the remaining closing conditions.”

The two companies, which help drugmakers and pharmacies manage patient benefits, said the deal would give consumers more power over prices. However, the Federal Trade Commission has been investigating whether the move might actually hike prices for consumers and reduce pharmacy services. The regulator may impose certain conditions on Express Scripts, including selling some specialist pharmacies.

“This has been a long and thorough investigation, typical of an FTC merger inquiry and it’s unclear whether conditions will be required by the FTC,” Robert W. Doyle, an antitrust attorney and former FTC official, told Bloomberg. “It seems in all likelihood that this transaction will ultimately get done.”

Medco stock was up 3.3 percent to $71.26 in morning trading. It had earlier climbed to $72.50, its highest price since August 2003. Express Scripts shares rose 1.3 percent.

“We’re excited to move a step further to bringing the companies together for the benefit of families and helping to do all the things we felt was the rationale for this merger all along,” said Express Scripts spokesman Brian Henry.

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