KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Health Sector Business Climate Good For Deal-Making, Acquisitions And Spin-Offs

Anthem's CFO said the potential for a "meaningful" merger within the insurance industry would shrink the field of major players. Johnson & Johnson is entering a development and marketing deal with Achillion Pharmaceuticals on one or more of the drugmaker's hepatitis C drugs. And Walgreens is relaunching its home-infusion division as a separate company.

Reuters: Anthem CFO Says Insurer Could Make 'Meaningful' Acquisition
The financial chief of Anthem Inc, the second-largest U.S. health insurer, said on Tuesday that low interest rates and other conditions make it a good time for an acquisition, adding to speculation about merger activity in the sector. DeVeydt's comments came against a backdrop of renewed speculation about the potential for a major insurance deal that would shrink the field of large U.S. players from five to four. (5/19)

Bloomberg: J&J Deal Heats Up One Of The Most Competitive Drug Markets
Johnson & Johnson agreed to develop and market Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s drug for hepatitis C, thrusting the world’s biggest maker of health-care products back into the growing competition for patients of the liver disease. J&J will work with Achillion on one or more of its top hepatitis C treatments, which may include ACH-3102, ACH-3422 and sovaprevir, in exchange for royalty payments, the companies said Tuesday in a statement. In a separate deal, J&J will pay $225 million for a stake in Achillion. (Harrison, 5/19)

The Chicago Tribune: Walgreens Spins Infusion Business Into Separate Company
Walgreens Boots Alliance's home-infusion division has been relaunched as an independent company called Option Care, after the drugstore chain sold a majority stake in the business to a Chicago private equity firm. Home-infusion therapy is a big and growing business. Paul Mastrapa, Option Care's CEO, estimates that infusion therapy is a $14 billion industry in the U.S., expanding 10 percent a year. (Sachdev, 5/19)

In other news, the Center for Public Integrity examines Medicare Advantage's lucrative move into the intersection of policy and Wall Street -

Center for Public Integrity: How Medicare Advantage Investors Made Billions Off Loose Government Lips
The third of February 2011 was mostly a ho-hum day on Wall Street­ — but not for companies offering Medicare Advantage plans. Several of those firms hit the jackpot, tacking on billions of dollars in new value after federal officials signaled they might go easy on health plans suspected of overcharging the government. ... A CMS spokesman said the two-paragraph memo was routine and that officials did nothing wrong in sending it out. But the advisory appears to contradict CMS regulations that urge officials to wait until after markets close to disclose information that could move stocks. The episode also raises fresh questions about the security and timing of “market-sensitive” disclosures – and just who gains access to the information. (Schulte, 5/19)

And the Food and Drug Administration -- as part of its effort to combat antibiotic resistance -- is seeking data from drugmakers on antimicrobials sold for use in animals such as cows and chickens -

The Washington Post: To Fight Superbugs, FDA Seeks Detailed Data On Animal Antimicrobials
The U.S Food and Drug Administration said it is asking drugmakers for data on antimicrobials sold for use in each food animal, such as cows and chickens, as part of efforts to combat antibiotic­resistant bacteria. ... Details on the use of medically important antimicrobials — a group of drugs that includes antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals — will help the agency discern patterns of resistance and identify disease trends, the FDA said in a statement Tuesday. (5/19)

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