The $40 billion in new health care deals announced Thursday shows there's more to M&A than tax breaks.

Abbott Laboratories agreed to buy St. Jude Medical Inc., a maker of heart devices, for $25 billion, the company's biggest ever acquisition. AbbVie Inc. agreed to buy closely held cancer drugmaker Stemcentrx for $5.8 billion. France's Sanofi, in a bid to build up its pipeline of new treatments, made a $9.3 billion unsolicited offer for Medivation Inc.

A U.S. government crackdown on companies using overseas addresses to dodge taxes was supposed to put a damper on acquisitions this year. Tougher regulations killed Pfizer Inc.'s $160 billion combination with Allergan Plc, which would have marked the biggest health care deal ever. 

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