Industry Briefs October 2014

CVS Caremark Becomes CVS Health

For years, people have just called this pharmacy “CVS,” and even though its name has changed to CVS Health, it is still likely to be called the same thing by its loyal customers. But the name change from CVS Caremark to CVS Health is really just the first step in making the retail pharmacy a major part of healthcare. That, and the fact that the pharmacy just ditched an estimated $2 billion in annual sales by removing all those brands of cigarettes from behind the counter and giving them the boot—forever.

CVS no longer wants to contribute to consumer health problems, but is in fact repositioning itself as a one-stop shop for consumer health. The company announced earlier this year that it is working with Epic Systems to bring ambulatory electronic health records to its MinuteClinics. And it has taken on dozens of partnerships with healthcare providers—all in an effort to become part of integrated healthcare delivery systems that help manage population health.

AbbVie and Calico Combine To Fight Age-Related Diseases

Biopharmaceutical giant AbbVie, and Calico, a Google-backed life sciences company, recently formed a R&D collaboration to develop and bring new therapies for patients with age-related diseases to the market.

Both companies, through an agreement, plan to accelerate the availability of new therapies for diseases including neurodegeneration and cancer. Calico will use its scientific expertise to focus on drug discovery and early drug development and AbbVie will provide scientific and clinical development support, along with its commercial expertise, to bring new discoveries to market.

“We are extremely proud to have our research teams partnering with Calico as we aim to address treatments for diseases of aging,” said Michael Severino, MD, Executive Vice President, Research and Development, and Chief Scientific Officer, AbbVie, in a statement. “Our broad R&D experience and capabilities will complement Calico’s biotechnology expertise and innovative scientific approaches. Together, we are confident that we will bring new therapeutic solutions to patients.”

Novo Nordisk Drops Anti-Inflammatory R&D

To keeps its focus on diabetes—it’s largest business—Novo Nordisk is stopping development efforts that target inflammatory disorders within the next six months. This decision followed another that halted the company’s development of a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, anti-IL-20, whose earliest possible entry into that market would not take place until the late 2020s, according to Reuters.

For now, as the world’s top insulin manufacturer, Novo Nordisk aims to increase its research and development in diabetes prevention and treatment, obesity and diabetes complications. Chief Science Officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen told Reuters, “Significant un-met opportunities remain within diabetes.” In fact, the company is eyeing the possible development of an oral diabetes drug (among other treatments), which, according to Reuters could be a game changer in the face of competition from generics and changing market demands.

Abbvie CEO to Shire: Merger Is On

Proposed changes to U.S. inversion rules that may not allow companies to switch country of residence for tax purposes after a merger will not stop AbbVie’s planned $54 billion Shire acquisition, as some pundits and media had conjectured. In fact, AbbVie recently released a memo, says Reuters, in which CEO Richard Gonzalez expressed even more confidence and told Shire employees, “I’m more energized than ever about our two companies coming together.” The memo also stated that both AbbVie and Shire will be working on “integration planning” in the next few months.

J&J Will Buy Alios Biopharma

In a bid to expand its pharmaceutical pipeline, Johnson & Johnson agreed to buy Alios Biopharma, a privately held developer of experimental treatments for viral diseases including Hep C, says the Wall Street Journal, for $1.75 billion. Alios Biopharma has several early-stage treatments in development, including an oral drug for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which affects infants and for which there is no current preventative therapy. Dow Jones VentureSource calls the deal the biggest acquisition of a venture-backed biotechnology company ever, beating the acquisition of Reliant Pharmaceuticals by GlaxoSmithKline in Dec. 2007 for $1.65 billion.

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