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Walmart, Humana reportedly in early merger talks

BY DSN STAFF

Walmart and health insurer Humana reportedly are in early discussions regarding a possible merger, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. A potential merger, if it went through, would bring the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer even further into the healthcare space that it has pushed into with its pharmacies, Care Clinics, optical centers, lab testing services and Wellness Day events.

WSJ notes that while it’s unclear what terms the companies are discussing — or that a deal with even materialize — its sources said that talks include an acquisition, as well as a range of other options.

The discussions come in the wake of several high-profile moves by retailers to enter the healthcare space in more robust ways. December 2017 saw CVS Health and Aetna announce plans to merge — which has potential to bring together CVS Health’s store footprint and pharmacy benefits manager CVS Caremark with Aetna’s connected health tools and patient base. A Walmart-Humana merger also would combine a retail footprint with insurer tools and Humana’s in-house PBM at a time when payers are increasingly using PBMs as a way to control ballooning healthcare costs. Also fresh in the retail world’s mind is Amazon’s partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to create a healthcare company to provide coverage to the three companies’ employees — which came amid continued speculation that Amazon will soon get into the healthcare game.

Humana currently has 2.4 million Medicare Advantage members, according to its website, making it one of the nation’s largest provider of the plans. WSJ’s report notes that in addition to the roughly 17% market share of the Medicare Advantage market would offer Walmart a customer boon, alongside potential savings on the retailer’s health plan — it currently is the largest private employer in the country, with roughly 1.5 million U.S. employees.

To read the full report, click here.

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McKesson pledges $100M, creates foundation to fight opioid epidemic

BY Michael Johnsen

McKesson on Thursday pledged $100 million toward combating the opioid epidemic through the formation of a foundation dedicated to addressing the crisis.

“At McKesson, we are deeply concerned by the impact the opioid epidemic is having on families and communities across our nation. That’s why we are taking new steps to help combat the epidemic,” John Hammergren, chairman and CEO McKesson, said. “These new initiatives will provide additional tools to fight abuse, combat overprescribing and increase doctor and patient education. We believe our investment and continued actions can have a positive impact, particularly when done in partnership with others in the healthcare industry, as well as with government policymakers, administrators, and regulators.”

The new non-profit organization is expected to focus on education for patients, caregivers and providers, addressing key policy issues and increasing access to life-saving treatments, such as opioid overdose reversal medications. The foundation’s work will be overseen by a board comprised of a majority of outside directors including healthcare and subject matter experts.

Details on leadership, strategic priorities and criteria for giving will be announced in the coming months. This new foundation is distinct from McKesson’s existing non-profit foundation whose key focus is on supporting better care for cancer patients.

McKesson outlined five key areas that will inform the company’s work with pharmacies, policymakers, prescribers and manufacturers.

  • Expedite development of a national prescription safety-alert system. To identify patients who are at risk for opioid overuse, abuse, addiction or misuse, the company will invest in the development of a national system that uses prescription information to provide real-time alerts to pharmacists and, ultimately, prescribers, indicating when additional patient information may be needed before dispensing opioids. (Check out a video outlining the alert system here);
  • Facilitate e-prescribing. To reduce fraudulent or counterfeit prescriptions, during 2019 the company will stop selling opioids to customers who cannot accept e-prescribing of controlled substances and will engage with those customers who may need to make this transition. McKesson continues to advocate that Congress require mandatory e-prescribing of opioids;
  • Support limited-dose packaging. To make it easier for doctors to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense in smaller doses, and to reduce potential for unused product, the company will proactively engage with all opioid manufacturing partners this calendar year to develop plans for limited-dose packaging;
  • Fast-track distribution of new, non-opioid pain medications. To improve access to medicines, the company will work with manufacturing partners to facilitate immediate availability on a national basis of non-opioid pain medication once approved by FDA; and
  • Provide complimentary pharmacist training on opioid overdose reversal medications. The company will offer pharmacists complimentary training by independent medical experts on how to administer medications such as naloxone.

In addition, the company will develop and make available an annual report that examines the progress of these company initiatives with the purpose of sharing learnings and insights with the public.

 

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CVS Health puts $260K focus on bleeding disorder programs

BY David Salazar

With March marking Bleeding Disorder Awareness, CVS Health has made $260,000 in charitable commitments to organizations that work with hemophilia and bleeding disorders nationwide. Currently, more than 200,000 people live with hemophilia, making it so their blood does not clot properly, requiring whole blood or platelet transfusions.

“CVS Health recognizes the challenges that come with having a bleeding disorder, and the need for increased research and education,” CVS Health vice president of specialty sales Joel Helle said. “By providing these leading organizations and programs with support, we’re able to help impact the care and quality of life for all people with a bleeding disorder, which advances our company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”

CVS Health has donated $50,000 to the Hemophilia Foundation of America to support education and support for patients with bleeding disorders and their families. It also supports HFA Families, which offers resources to families of patients, as well as Blood Brotherhood, which offers support and education to adult men with blood disorders.

“HFA is pleased to have the support of CVS Health to help raise awareness and to continue the very important advocacy work we do to improve the lives of people in the bleeding disorders community,” HFA president and CEO Kimberly Haugstad said.

The company also is supporting the National Hemophilia Foundation with a $60,000 donation for advocacy, education and research efforts, including its annual awareness effort, the Red Tie Campaign, and its annual walk for hemophilia, UNITE for Bleeding Disorders.

“This collaborative effort is the type of partnership that is necessary to help increase awareness and deliver the programming and support our families desperately need,” said Brett Spitale, vice president of advancement for NHF. “We look forward to growing our partnership with CVS Health in the future allowing us to do more for our community.”

CVS Health’s donations also include more than $150,00 in grants that will go 38 local programs nationwide, each of which is receiving a grant of $1,000 to $7,000 to support local walks, patient retreats and summer camps.

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