Healthcare dealmaking just hit an all-time record of almost $400 billion - here are some of the year's biggest mergers

Cigna CEO David CordaniCigna CEO David Cordani speaking at CNBC's Healthy Returns conference on March 28.David Grogan / CNBC

  • Healthcare dealmaking just hit a record of $398 billion in transactions so far this year.
  • The two biggest deals are very different. One combines two international drugmakers, and the other merges a US health insurer with a company that handles prescription drug benefits.
  • A climbing stock market and low interest rates helped convince companies to strike deals.

Healthcare dealmaking just hit a record.

Big drugmakers, insurers and care providers have agreed to $398 billion in mergers so far this year, according to data provider Refinitiv. The previous record, $397 billion, was recorded in 2015.

Low interest rates and a stock market that climbed for much of 2018 contributed to the dealmaking frenzy.

healthcare deals hit a record chartHealthcare deals hit a record this year.Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

The biggest takeover of the year was Takeda Pharmaceutical's $76.9 billion bid for Shire, which is best-known for making the hyperactivity treatment Adderall. The combination will also set a record for the largest deal by a Japanese firm for a non-Japanese company.

The No. 2 deal was health insurer Cigna's $68.5 billion acquisition of pharmacy-benefits manager Express Scripts. That deal helps Cigna gain more control over how its customers buy and use prescription drugs. And by bulking up, the combined company will have more leverage in negations with customers and suppliers.

Read more: 'Waiting for its Uber moment': America's biggest companies are shaking up the healthcare system

Takeda PharmaWorkers at the new Takeda pharma factory wait for the arrival of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Oranienburg, Germany, June 16, 2017.Reuters

The most recent healthcare deal, announced on Tuesday, was medical device company Boston Scientific's acquisition of British firm BTG for $3.9 billion. BTG makes interventional medical products, such as tiny coils that can be implanted in a patient's lungs. One of its top offerings is a treatment for rattlesnake bites.

The tally from Refinitiv counts deals when they're announced, though not all transactions are ultimately completed. And the dollars figures include debt held by the target companies.

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