Trending News Today: Justice Department Approves Cigna, Express Scripts Merger

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

The Senate passed a bipartisan package of 70 opioid bills aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic, The Hill reported. According to the article, the package focuses on prevention and treatment, and marks the most comprehensive action the Senate has taken on the crisis in more than 2 years. The package would make a number of regulatory changes aimed at improving access to treatment for opioid use disorder and authorize federal agencies to award grants to local and state groups and municipalities fighting the epidemic, the article reported. One provision, the STOP ACT, would crack down on the shipment of deadly synthetic opioids into the United States from other countries.

Federal antitrust authorities have cleared Cigna’s acquisition of pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, The Hill reported. According to the article, the merger still needs to be approved by state regulators, but the companies said they anticipate closing the deal by the end of 2018. In a statement, the Department of Justice said merging Cigna and Express Scripts would not hurt competition or consumers, the article reported.

Viking Therapeutics announced that its liver disease drug has met the goal of a mid-stage clinical trial, Reuters reported. According to the article, VK2809 successfully lowered cholesterol and liver fat levels in patients with non-alcohol fatty liver disease and high levels of LDL-C, compared with a placebo. Patients treated with the drug experienced a median reduction of between 57% and 60% in liver fat and LDL-C levels dropped by a fifth or more, the article reported.