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Centene to buy specialty pharmacy AcariaHealth

Medicaid coverage provider Centene Corp. has agreed to buy specialty pharmacy AcariaHealth for $152 million in a deal designed to help its pharmacy benefits management business.

Centene, based in St. Louis, said Monday the acquisition will give its pharmacy benefits manager, US Script, a sister company that expands specialized pharmacy benefit services for complex diseases like hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Centene will buy AcariaHealth from the private equity firm Enhanced Equity Funds with a combination of common stock, cash and credit. It expects the deal to close in the first quarter, subject to regulatory approval.Pharmacy benefits managers run prescription drug plans for employers, insurers and other customers. They process mail-order prescriptions and handle bills for prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies. They use large purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices and make money by reducing costs for health plan sponsors and members.

Centene expects the deal to be neutral to earnings in the first year after the acquisition, not counting one-time costs tied to the transaction.

Shares of Centene fell 19 cents to $41.46 in morning trading Monday. It shares traded as high as $50.98 last April before falling to a 52-week low of $24.26 in mid-June.
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