Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc <WBA.O>, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, is nearing a deal to buy smaller peer Rite Aid Corp <RAD.N> for more than $10 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. 

The deal would follow CVS Health Corp's <CVS.N> $10.1 billion acquisition of Omnicare Inc <OCR.N> in August. It would further consolidate the U.S. drugstore sector and attract antitrust scrutiny.

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Walgreens and Rite Aid could announce an agreement as early as Wednesday, the people said, requesting anonymity because the negotiations are confidential. Walgreens and Rite Aid officials declined to comment. 

Shares of Rite Aid, which had a market value of $6.36 billion as of Monday close, rose as much as 44 percent to $8.74 after the Wall Street Journal first reported the news. Walgreens stock rose as much as 5.8 percent to $94.69.

The pharmaceutical sector has been consolidating as companies look to beef up and bargain for lower drug prices from both manufacturers and the three largest U.S. distributors.