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Express Scripts earnings meet estimates as drug claims rise

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(Bloomberg) — Express Scripts Holding Co. (Nasdaq:ESRX) reported first-quarter earnings that met analysts’ estimates, as the number of prescriptions processed by the drug benefits manager rose.

Profit excluding one-time items was $1.22 a share, St. Louis-based Express Scripts said in a statement, matching the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Adjusted prescription claims increased 5.2 percent to 323.5 million.

Express Scripts said the average profit on each prescription the company processed fell from a year ago, with EBITDA per adjusted claim falling 8.3 percent to $4.51 from $4.92 a year earlier. EBITDA refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. First-quarter net income rose to $526.1 million, or 81 cents a share, from $441.1 million, or 60 cents a share, a year earlier.

The company is locked in a dispute over pricing with its biggest customer, insurer Anthem Inc. (NYSE:ANTM), which says it is being overcharged by Express Scripts by billions of dollars a year. Anthem, in a lawsuit filed last month, asked for the option to end its relationship with Express Scripts. In a countersuit filed last week, Express Scripts said it doesn’t owe the health insurer any price reductions under their current contract, which goes through 2019, and accused Anthem of failing to negotiate in good faith.

Raised Forecast

Employers and other customers pay Express Scripts to keep the cost of drugs by down by switching patients to generics versions of medicines, and by pitting manufacturers of brand drugs against each other to get on the company’s list of covered drugs.