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CVS talks to buy Aetna for $66 billion makes sense because of 'threats from all sides'

  • CVS talks to buy health insurer Aetna makes sense because the drugstore operator and prescription benefit manager has been facing threats from all sides, analysts say.
  • The threats include UnitedHealth, online retail giant Amazon, and changes in the overall health-care market.

CVS talks to buy health insurer Aetna for as much as $66 billion makes sense because the drugstore operator and prescription benefit manager has been facing threats from all sides, including from Amazon, a leading analyst told CNBC on Friday. A deal of this nature would add health insurance plans to the CVS Health portfolio.

"CVS has so many threats coming at them," said Ana Gupte, a senior health care services analyst at Leerink Partners. She said one threat in particular is from OptumRx, UnitedHealth Group's pharmacy benefit management business. So-called PBMs such as OptumRx and CVS' Caremark unit negotiate drug benefits for insurance plans and employers.

Amazon is also "clearly a huge piece of this," Gupte added in a "Squawk Box" interview. The online retail giant has been exploring ways to expand into the drug industry, including selling prescription drugs online.

Gupte says Amazon is thinking hard about its decision, but she added that "all signs" point to Amazon entering into the pharmaceutical industry.

"They may choose to say, 'Hey, should we hurt our brand with all this government scrutiny in an industry and where profit margins are a threat?'" Gupte said. "But, Amazon has always been the leader, and margins will compress, and Amazon is fine with that."

"They're going to disrupt the whole thing like they did for the bookstore industry," she added.

When considering the price of the CVS-Aetna deal, Gupte said it represents about a 25 percent premium to Aetna's price, and CVS "has to do something."

Also on "Squawk Box," RBC health-care analyst Frank Morgan said the possible CVS-Aetna deal showcases a reflection of the consolidation happening in the overall health market.

The moves toward value-based purchasing and consumerization are responsible for the integration of PBMs in health-care businesses, he said.

"Obviously, we're very concerned about health-care inflation here in America," Morgan added.

The deal could improve CVS' competitiveness to offer a fully integrated health insurance and drug service offering, he said.

—Reuters contributed to this report.

Watch: CVS-Aetna deal is a reflection of the larger health-care market: RBC Capital's Frank Morgan

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