PHARMACY

Sanofi-Aventis closes Genzyme acquisition

BY Allison Cerra

PARIS — Genzyme now officially is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sanofi-Aventis.

The Paris-based drug maker said that the closing followed the completion of the exchange offer for drug maker Genzyme last week. As its subsidiary, Genzyme will become a new platform in Sanofi’s sustainable growth strategy and expand the company’s presence in biotechnology, Sanofi said. Genzyme will continue to operate out of its Cambridge, Mass., headquarters, and will be led by Sanofi CEO Christopher Viehbacher for several months.

Genzyme rejected several buyout offers from Sanofi last year, which included a deal worth $18.5 billion, or $69 per share. The two finally settled on a price of $74 per share.

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NCPA: Florida’s Medicaid Managed Care pilot program raises concerns

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A Georgetown University Health Policy Institute study of Florida’s Medicaid Managed Care pilot program should raise doubts for states considering the use of for-profit managed care companies to reduce Medicaid costs, the National Community Pharmacists Association cautioned on Friday.

The Georgetown study found that some companies hoping to profit from providing Medicaid managed care services have not achieved the success they envisioned and sometimes choose to leave the program with little notice, causing a disruption for patients. For example, health plans accounting for two-thirds of the market share in Broward County in 2008 are no longer participating today. Such disruption can particularly harm those Medicaid beneficiaries who need more coordinated care for serious chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

In terms of managed care costs savings, the Georgetown study found “insufficient data available to draw conclusions,” adding that reductions in expenditures may actually be due, in part, to patients being denied care.

Even so, Florida is pushing legislation that expands the program statewide, and other states might follow suit, NCPA warned. Instead of continuing with the fee-for-service system operated by the state at lower administrative costs, compared to private health insurance plans, the pilot program adds another layer of bureaucracy and fees, the association asserted.

“Independent community pharmacists sympathize with states like Florida that are facing a budgetary crisis and are looking for solutions to rein in the costs of Medicaid,“ stated NCPA EVP and CEO Douglas Hoey. “However, this type of flawed Medicaid managed care approach is not the solution. The recently released Georgetown University study indicates that the envisioned benefits of Medicaid managed care are not materializing, while patient health may be at risk in some instances.”

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Independent pharmacies show why they top in customer service

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Anyone who has ever managed a retail operation at the store level knows — perception is reality.

(THE NEWS: Independent pharmacies earn top scores from Consumer Reports readers. For the full story, click here.)

And the perception among Consumer Reports readers is that the little mom and pops do pharmacy better than the big chain stores do. That’s nothing new. What is interesting to note is the way they perceive some of the country’s biggest independent operators, such as the fast-growing McKesson franchise group Health Mart. In just five years, Health Mart has grown from 260 stores to more than 2,700, and along the way has carved out the brand presence of a national chain while still maintaining the focus on individualized service that independents traditionally are known for.

And it’s certainly not all done with smoke and mirrors. The group, led by president Tim Canning, has built a broad menu of tools, technology and clinically oriented health-and-wellness services for its customers, as well as a range of capabilities that give it some of the national branding, marketing and purchasing strength of a corporately owned pharmacy chain, and thus enabling its franchisees to compete against the big chains. Two strong examples of its big-brand presence are the TV ad campaign it kicked off in early 2010, which debuted against high-profile events like the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics; and the company’s annual Health Mart Healthy Living Tour, which visited 80 stores in 18 states last year.

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