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UnitedHealth to acquire Diplomat

UnitedHealth plans to acquire Diplomat Pharmacy at a steep discount about a month after the specialty drug provider said it may not be able to make its debt payments. United Health Group’s OptumRx subsidiary will pay $4 cash a share for Diplomat, a 31% discount to the stock’s closing price on Friday. Diplomat provides specialty drugs that treat cancer patients and others with complex medical conditions. Diplomat warned last month that it couldn’t renew a deal to stay in the specialty pharmacy and retail networks of a big payer it did not name.

It lost $177 million in the third quarter. Specialty drugs are big business for pharmacy benefit managers like OptumRx. Insurers and employers see these expensive drugs as a major factor behind rising health care costs, and they are focusing more on managing the cost of the drugs and where they are administered. Diplomat shares fell 32.7% and UnitedHealth shares fell 0.9% on Monday

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