Centene Corp. announced on Wednesday that it completed its acquisition of PANTHERx, a pharmacy specializing in manufacturing orphan drugs and tools to treat rare diseases.

Centene said PANTHERx is one of the largest and fastest-growing pharmacies of its kind in the U.S. In addition to manufacturing medications, the Pittsburgh-based specialty pharmacy offers compliance, logistics and analytics tools to help payers and providers deliver care to patients.

Centene first announced its plan to buy PANTHERx in mid-December. The company will operate independently as part of the insurer’s drug management program, Evolve Pharmacy Solutions, which includes pharmacy benefit management and specialty pharmacy capabilities. Orphan drugs are therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat rare conditions or diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. Drugmakers that develop medicines to treat these conditions often receive several incentives to do so, including years of market exclusivity and tax credits.

The purchase represents the latest move by a payer to acquire a specialty pharmacy that dispenses high-cost drugs, all in an effort to control patient-care costs. A year ago, UnitedHealth Group paid $300 million to buy Diplomat specialty pharmacy. That same month, Humana acquired pharmacy benefit manager Enclara Healthcare.

Centene CEO Michael Neidorff said the PANTHERx acquisition will help the payer provide care to more complex—and often more pricey—patient populations. Centene’s total enrollment tops 25 million.

“PANTHERx adds a unique capability to our comprehensive pharmacy portfolio,” Neidorff said in a statement. “We share a common goal of helping to remove barriers and reduce the burden for our members living with complex and rare diseases.”

During its most recent third-quarter earnings report on Sept. 30, Centene reported net earnings of $565 million, up $95 million year-over-year.

Centene

Source: Centene buys specialty pharmaceutical provider PANTHERx