Express Scripts may close Medco deal next week

Relief may be in sight for people having trouble paying for costly prescription drugs. Several top-selling drugs are set to lose patent protection over the next year. "My estimation is at least 15 percent of the population is currently using one of the drugs whose patents will expire in 2011 or 2012," Joel Owerbach, chief pharmacy officer for New York's Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, told the Associated Press. Generic drugs cost 20 to 80 percent less than brand name equivalents, and can cost as little as $5 on some insurance plans. Keep clicking to see 7 top-selling drugs set to expire, as listed by pharmacy benefits company Medco...

Pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts (ESRX) says it may close its $29.1 billion acquisition of Medco Health Solutions (MHS) as soon as next week.

The St. Louis company had said recently it expected to close the deal early in the second quarter. Shareholders from both companies have already approved the acquisition, but the Federal Trade Commission is still reviewing it.

Express Scripts spokesman Brian Henry says he can't comment on whether his company's announcement means regulatory approval of the deal is likely. He says discussions with the FTC are private.

Pharmacy benefits managers, or PBMs, run prescription drug plans for employers, government agencies and other clients, using their large purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices. They make money by reducing costs for health plan sponsors and members.