AmerisourceBergen

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As one of the nation’s largest drug distributors, Amerisource Bergen has been an obvious beneficiary of the booming generics business. But the company has quietly become a powerhouse in specialty drugs as well, from which it now generates about 20% of sales. For example, Amerisource commands more than half the community oncologist market, a business expected to see solid growth as baby boomers gray.No surprise, then, that Steve Collis, a 17-year company veteran — and the driving force behind Amerisource’s specialty drugs unit — was tapped to take over as CEO when longtime chief David Yost retires in July. —P.N.

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Cardinal Health

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In a business where big players claw away at each other’s ultra-slim operating margins, drug distributor Cardinal Health sharpened its nails with two strategic acquisitions last year.In China, one of the world’s fastest growing health care markets, Cardinal paid $470 million for Zuellig Pharma China, the country’s largest pharmaceutical importer. In the U.S., it bought Kinray from billionaire Stewart Rahr for $1.3 billion, which will add some 2,000 higher-margin independent pharmacies to Cardinal’s distribution channel.

A new, three-year $750 million stock repurchase plan should also give a boost to the company’s shares. —P.N.

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McKesson

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The nation’s largest health-care provider greatly expanded its already extensive cancer treatment business when it bought U.S. Oncology for $2.2 billion last December. Still, distribution remains McKesson’s backbone: A full one-third of all medicines used in the U.S. run through its pipeline.The company also is the dominant player in health care information systems. More than 70% of the nation’s big market hospitals use its technology to digitize prescriptions and patient medical records. A class-action lawsuit over wholesale drug prices has cut into profits; still, its stock is up 23% over the past year. —P.N.

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