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Reuters reports that "the California attorney general’s office is probing whether Kroger’s $24.6 billion plan to buy rival grocer Albertsons will make it harder for people in poorer parts of cities or rural areas to buy medicines."

According to the story, "Two people told Reuters that the California attorney general’s office, which is reviewing the planned acquisition for potential violations of antitrust law, has also asked if the deal would mean more or bigger pharmacy deserts in the state … In urban areas, researchers defined a pharmacy desert as a neighborhood where people had to walk or take a bus more than a half mile to a pharmacy. In areas where people tended to drive, a neighborhood that was more than a mile from a pharmacy would be termed a pharmacy desert."

Reuters notes that "the deal, announced in October, would create a grocery chain with nearly 5,000 stores, although up to 650 may be sold to win approval for the transaction … A total of 2,254 Kroger-owned stores have pharmacies while some 1,700 Albertsons supermarkets have pharmacies, according to the companies’ websites."

The Reuters piece says that "a spokesperson for Kroger said that the company was working with antitrust enforcers to ensure that any stores that are sold to satisfy antitrust concerns would remain open and viable, including any stores with pharmacies.  'Post-transaction, Kroger will operate the pharmacies that are part of the Albertsons’ stores that it acquires,' the spokesperson said."

KC's View:

Kroger and Albertsons have pledged that stores won't be closed, that there will be no front-line layoffs, and that prices will be reduced over the long term.  They haven't carved out pharmaceuticals as being an exception to these promises, so now it is left to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), state Attorneys General, and anybody else with a regulatory hammer to decide whether to accept the companies at their word.