PHARMACY

House Dems pushing for expansion of children’s health benefit program

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON A bill to extend health insurance benefits to some 10 million low-income children — including 4 million who currently have no coverage — appears likely to gain passage in a Democratic-controlled Congress well before current benefits are set to expire March 31.

The New York Times reported Monday that lawmakers are poised to pass legislation extending and expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which currently covers some 6.6 million low-income children. A vote on the bill could come in the House of Representatives this week; Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana has drawn up a similar bill in the Senate.

The House bill would expand benefits to another four million uninsured kids, according to reports in the Times and elsewhere, including children of legal immigrants who are barred under current law from Medicaid orSCHIP until they’ve resided in the United States for at least five years. Many Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, as well as President-elect Barack Obama, have voiced support for expanding the benefit program to include more uninsured children.

The SCHIP program has long been a source of rancor between Democrats and Pres. George Bush, who has proposed spending cuts for the program in has most recent budget proposals despite campaign pledges in 2004 calling for an expansion of health coverage to low-income children. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leader of the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, have both come out in support of the expansion.

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GSK completes acquisition of Stiefel

BY Allison Cerra

LONDON A drug maker has announced it has completed the acquisition of a company specializing in skin care.

GlaxoSmithKline announced that it has completed its acquisition of Stiefel Labs. GSK has acquired the total share capital of Stiefel for a cash consideration of $2.9 billion. GSK also assumed $0.4 billion of net debt. Under the terms of the agreement, GSK may be obligated to make additional cash payments of up to $0.3 billion depending on the future performance of the business. The new dermatology business unit within GSK will operate under the name Stiefel, a GSK company.

“The Stiefel acquisition demonstrates how we are implementing our strategy to grow and diversify our business through targeted acquisitions,” Deirdre Connelly, president North American Pharmaceuticals at GSK. “We now have established a new world-leading, specialist dermatology business that will immediately generate new revenue flows to GSK.”

Charles Stiefel, Chairman of Stiefel, said, “As part of GSK, we are stronger, more competitive and continue to be a driving force in dermatology around the world. We are excited to combine GSK’s prescription dermatology products, such as Bactroban, Cutivate and Altabax, with Stiefel’s portfolio, including brands such as Duac, Olux E and Soriatane. This combined portfolio, together with our specialty sales force and GSK’s global presence, positions GSK’s dermatology business for significant growth.”

Sales of Stiefel’s products for 2008 were approximately $900 million and sales of GSK’s prescription dermatology products were approximately $550 million. The combined pro forma revenues of approximately $1.5 billion, represent an 8% share of the global prescription dermatology market.

Stiefel is committed to improving and developing new treatments and has a robust development pipeline, with more than 15 projects in late-stage development across a wide variety of such dermatological conditions as acne, dermatoses and fungal infection. The business unit also has access to significant innovative and proprietary formulation technologies.

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Trial for MS drug should continue, company’s DSMB says

BY Alaric DeArment

EDMONTON, Alberta An independent data safety monitoring board has recommended that a phase 3 trial for a multiple sclerosis drug continue.

BioMS Medical Corp. announced Tuesday that the DSMB for its pivotal phase 3 trial of the drug dirucotide in patients with secondary progressive MS has completed its safety analysis and recommended the continuation. This was the fourth of several regularly scheduled reviews by the DSMB, BioMS said.

The study is a randomized, double-blind study that has completed recruitment of more than 500 patients at 67 clinical sites who will receive either dirucotide or placebo intravenously every six months for the next two years.

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