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REVCO BUYING BIG B CHAIN IN LATEST PHARMACY MERGER

A wave of consolidation in the pharmacy industry continued as mammoth Revco D.S. Inc. purchased the regional chain Big B Inc. More buyouts may be on the way.

The companies announced the $380 million cash deal Monday just weeks after the Alabama-based Big B rejected a $330 million unsolicited offer from Revco, the nation's second-largest chain.

The agreement would give Revco, based in Twinsburg, Ohio, an additional 397 pharmacies in the Southeast, where Big B grew into the nation's No. 10 chain. Revco currently has 2,202 stores in 14 states.

The takeover was the latest in a series of combinations on the pharmacy industry. Companies are trying to expand markets and cut costs as health maintenance organizations demand deep breaks on drug prices.

An analyst said about 25 percent of the industry remains independent.

"That says there is still a lot of business to be integrated into the larger players, and some of them may even come together before its over," said Phillip J. Muldoon of McDonald and Co. in Cleveland.

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