PHARMACY

DiabetesMine launches 2011 design challenge

BY Allison Cerra

SAN FRANCISCO — An informational and community website for people with diabetes has kicked off its fourth annual design challenge, a Web-based competition that calls for fresh ideas for new devices, Web applications or other instruments designed to help people live better with the disease.

DiabetesMine, which is part of the Alliance Health Networks family of sites, said the 2011 design challenge fosters innovation. For the second year in a row, open community voting on the website will determine the top 10 finalists for this competition. Final winner selections will be made by a group of expert judges with expertise in diabetes care, medical technologies, design and venture capital funding. Three winners will be announced this year, with the grand prize winner awarded a cash prize and the opportunity to attend an industry event, as well as meet with experts.

"We’re very excited to expand the reach of the contest this year," said Amy Tenderich, DiabetesMine founder and Type 1 diabetic. "Not only do we look forward to another bounty of creative submissions, but we’re also planning a Diabetes Innovation Summit event that will bring together patient advocates, medical device designers, investors and other experts. It’s all about making ‘patient-centered care’ a truly meaningful term."

For DiabetesMine 2011 design challenge information, visit DiabetesMine.com.

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Lilly head continues call for medical innovation

BY Alaric DeArment

TOKYO — Eli Lilly leader John Lechleiter has become something of an evangelist for medical innovation lately.

On Wednesday, the Lilly chairman, president and CEO spoke to the U.S./Japan Business Council in Tokyo to call for changes and policies in the biopharmaceutical industry that encourage innovation, or “reinventing invention,” as he called it.

“We believe that wise investments in healthcare innovation will be among society’s most productive investments in the years ahead, and that medicines represent the most cost-effective approach to preventing and treating disease,” he said.

Japan has among the world’s fastest-aging societies, with almost 45,000 centenarians, a number expected to jump to 272,000 by 2050, with 40% of the population 65 years or older by then, according to a United Nations survey.

Lechleiter made similar remarks last month at The Economist magazine’s 2011 Pharma Summit in London, when he called for new approaches to research on diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

His promotion of innovation is notable, considering that it’s what big drug companies, such as Lilly, will need to stay afloat as a boatload of blockbuster drugs go off patent and face generic competition over the next few years.

The companies most vulnerable to generic competition, like Pfizer and Merck, sought to reinvigorate their pipelines with biotech drugs by buying out Wyeth and Schering-Plough, respectively, while French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis is spending $20.1 billion to acquire biotech giant Genzyme, and Bristol-Myers Squibb has transitioned from a traditional pharmaceutical company into a biotech company.

Lilly has avoided big-ticket acquisitions and sought instead to invest in its research and development pipeline, which already included a significant biotech segment.

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NACDS, NCPA express support of ‘swipe fee’ reform

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association on Tuesday urged Congress to permit the Federal Reserve Board to expedite the implementation of an amendment to the financial-reform legislation from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that would limit the fees charged to retail merchants on debit card transactions (known as “swipe fees”) to a level that is “reasonable and proportionate” to the costs incurred by the banks and credit card associations to process these transactions.

“The amendment also allows retail merchants options on how their debit card transactions are routed for processing, which provides market competition for this part of the process,” the letter stated.

Durbin’s amendment was included in the financial-reform legislation enacted last year, and directed the Federal Reserve to seek a level playing field between financial institutions and retailers — including pharmacies — on these debit card fees.

The law requires the Federal Reserve to write rules to enforce the “reasonable and proportional to cost” requirement by July 2011, although the precise date for enforcing the routing rule is left to its discretion. At this point, the Federal Reserve has issued draft regulations on what is to be considered reasonable and proportionate, and has closed the comment period on the rules.

“We believe it is imperative that this process of writing and issuing final regulations continue as required by the law," the letter from the NACDS and NCPA stated. "Debit and credit card interchange fees currently total close to $50 billion annually for retailers. The timely promulgation and enforcement of the regulations will assure the beginnings of reform for both debit and credit cards to assure that fees are ‘reasonable and proportionate’ for retailers and the customers they serve in a highly competitive marketplace.”

For a copy of the letter, click here.

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