CVS-Aetna Merger: Judge Allows AHF to Propose Witnesses

In Global Advocacy, Global Featured by Ged Kenslea

Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Monday that AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) may propose up to three witnesses to testify at an upcoming evidentiary hearing in opposition to the nearly $70 billion acquisition of Aetna by CVS Health Corp.

In March, Judge Leon granted AHF’s motion to participate as a friend of the court (amicus curiae) to present its opposition to the merger and also consider anti-competitive concerns raised by the deal.

WASHINGTON (April 9, 2019) In a victory for both patients and health care consumers nationwide, a federal judge ruled Monday that he will hold an evidentiary hearing to consider the opposition to the $69 billion merger of Aetna and CVS Health Corp. that was voiced by friends of the court (amicus curiae), including AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).  In its order on Monday, the court invited the amici to propose up to three witnesses each to testify at the hearing, and the court allowed the proponents of the merger to propose up to three witnesses in rebuttal.

The proponents of the merger include the Justice Department Antitrust Division (DOJ), which approved the merger with certain conditions late last year, CVS Health, and Aetna. Upon the DOJ’s approval, the merger would have been consummated, but Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia paused the proceedings, citing anti-competitive concerns.

In early March, Judge Leon granted AHF’s motion to participate as a friend of the court (amicus curiae) in the case to present its strong opposition to the merger. The court also granted friend-of-the-court status to the American Medical Association (AMA); Consumer Action; U.S. PIRG; Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency and the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York – all of whom also oppose the merger.

At a status hearing last Friday, Judge Leon rejected arguments by lawyers from the Antitrust Division and CVS that an evidentiary hearing was unnecessary, stating that the case was “of great public interest,” and that “[m]illions and tens of millions are going to be affected by this merger if it should be consummated completely, and health care is a very high priority issue for tens and tens of millions of families throughout this country.” Judge Leon anticipates a hearing sometime in May that could last about a week. 

“We believe that state and federal regulators, including the Department of Justice, glossed over many red flags in granting initial approval for the merger last fall. We are grateful that the court has refused to rubber stamp the merger, and that it has allowed AHF to propose fact witnesses who will describe the serious negative consequences the merger will have for HIV patients and others with chronic health conditions,” says Laura Boudreau, Chief of Operations/Risk Management and Quality Improvement. “Allowing one company to control key points of the service spectrum – pharmacy, payor, and pharmacy benefits manager – interferes with patients’ control over their treatment, eliminates choice by reducing competition, and increases healthcare costs.”

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