CVS Caremark Corp., the nation’s largest provider of prescription drugs, agreed to buy a unit of Apria Healthcare Group Inc. in Lake Forest for about $2.1 billion to add specialty infusion services. It is CVS’ biggest purchase in five years.
The deal to buy Apria’s Coram unit will bring CVS into the business of providing therapies such as antibiotics, nutrition and pain medicine through needles or catheters into patients’ veins.
Such drugs are a growing part of the pharmacy market, and CVS can help clients control health costs by offering them at Coram’s more than 85 locations nationwide instead of at costlier hospitals.
“They are moving into home infusion, which is a high-growth area,” Ross Muken, an analyst for ISI Group LLC in New York, said in an interview. In the next five years, several infusion treatments will become top 10 bestselling drugs while none currently are, he said.
Apria, a medical-equipment provider owned by Blackstone Group, purchased Denver-based Coram for $350 million in 2007.
The deal would be the largest for CVS since the Woonsocket, R.I., company bought Longs Drug Stores for about $2.8 billion in 2008, beating Walgreen Co. in a bidding contest. Walgreen operates the largest U.S. drugstore chain.
The acquisition also is the third-largest in the North American drug-retail industry in the last five years, trailing Loblaw Cos.’ agreement to buy Shoppers Drug Mart this year and Walgreen’s purchase of a 45% stake in Alliance Boots GmbH last year.