PHARMACY

House votes overwhelmingly to block Medicaid cuts

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The full House of Representatives voted yesterday to block cuts aimed at Medicaid, which were proposed by the Bush administration, according to published reports. The spending cuts would have totaled $13 billion over the next five years.

The measure easily passed the mandatory two-thirds vote needed by a vote of 349-62. The vote will hopefully impose a one-year moratorium, through next March, on seven rules changes that the administration argues are needed to clean-up the waste and abuse in the program. The next step is for the vote to move to the Senate Finance Committee in hopes of moving to the Senate floor. President Bush, however, has threatened a veto, so it would be important for the Senate to be overwhelmingly in favor of the vote, as the House was.

The proposed rules would affect programs involving payment to public safety-net institutions, rehabilitation services for people with disabilities, coverage of hospital clinical services, graduate medical education payments and specialized medical transportation to school for children covered by Medicaid.

In 2007, some 48 million people participated in Medicaid programs. The total cost was about $352 billion, with the federal government paying almost $200 billion and states providing the rest.

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Schering-Plough posts quarterly loss from purchase of Organon

BY Drew Buono

KENILWORTH, N.J. Schering-Plough today released its first-quarter results for 2008, according to published reports. The drugmaker reported a net income of $253 million, down from $543 million during the first quarter of 2007, mostly due to the acquisition of the biotech company Organon BioSciences.

Sales though rose by 56 percent to $4.66 billion. Its rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade’s sales rose by 36 percent to $507 million.

Vytorin and another cholesterol treatment drug Zetia, which Schering markets through a joint venture with Merck saw sales of both drugs combined rise 6 percent to $1.2 billion during the quarter. But they fell 5 percent in the United States amid the widely publicized failure of Vytorin to cut plaque in neck arteries in a study for which results were presented in January.

Merck said Monday it expects its revenue from the drugs to drop by $700 million over the rest of 2008.

Chief executive officer Fred Hassan said the company is on track with its plan to cut annual costs by $1.5 billion by 2012, announced earlier this month. About 10 percent of its 55,000 jobs are to be cut.

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Genzyme plans expansion in China

BY Drew Buono

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Genzyme has announced that it will build a research and development center in Beijing as part of its global expansion, according to published reports.

The company expects the facility to open in 2010 and cost them about $90 million. It will be a 200,000 square-foot facility, which will be able to accommodate 350 employees.

Genzyme said it already has 25 employees working in offices in Beijing and Shanghai and has a pilot program for its cell therapy MACI at Beijing Wujing Hospital.

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