HEALTH

Novartis announces merger proposal for Alcon

BY Michael Johnsen

HUENENBERG, Switzerland Novartis is looking to purchase the remaining shares in an eye care company.

The Swiss drug maker said that it wants to purchase remaining shares of Alcon, owned by Nestle S.A., at a weighted average price of $180 per share in cash.

The exercise is pursuant to an agreement between Nestle and Novartis that was executed on April 7, 2008. The option exercise is subject to regulatory approvals and covers approximately 156 million shares of Alcon held by Nestle, representing approximately 52% of Alcon’s outstanding shares. Upon consummation of the purchase, Novartis would own an approximate 77% interest in Alcon.

Novartis also announced that it has submitted to the Alcon board of directors a proposal for a merger of Alcon with and into Novartis to be effected under Swiss merger law. Under the terms of the merger proposal, holders of the approximately 23% of Alcon shares that are publicly-traded would receive 2.8 Novartis shares for each Alcon share.

Based on the Novartis share price and U.S. dollar/Swiss franc exchange rates prior to the announcement, this would value each publicly-traded share of Alcon at approximately $153. The proposed merger would be contingent upon, among other things, approval by the Alcon board of directors, the closing of the purchase and sale transaction related to the Novartis option exercise as well as receipt of required regulatory approvals.

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Tylenol Arthritis caplet recall becomes a bigger headache

BY Rob Eder

NEW YORK Johnson & Johnson has expanded its voluntary recall of Tylenol Arthritis caplets in the wake of consumer reports of a moldy smell that can cause nausea and sickness. The recall now includes all product lots of the Arthritis Pain caplet 100-count bottles with the red EZ-Open cap.

Prior to this, the company had recalled five lots of the product in November, citing similar reasons, with user complaints of nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.

According to J&J, the odor is coming from trace amounts of 2,4,6-tribromoanisole — a chemical used to treat wooden pallets that transport and store packaging materials —  which is believed to be the result from the breakdown of another chemical used in the manufacture of the drug.

To date, the side effects have been “temporary and non-serious,” although the health effects of the compound have not been studied.

The recall only affects the specific lots reported, and does not extend to any other Tylenol pain products.

J&J is moving its production of Tylenol Arthritis Pain caplets 100-count to another plant, and plans to reintroduce the product in January.

J&J is advising consumers seeking a refund or replacement to call (888) 222-6036.

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CVS Caremark appoints new president of PBM business

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK If there was any doubt as to the value CVS Caremark places on personalized medicine, that doubt no longer should exist.

Clearly, the company believes that one area its PBM can create real value for payers is within pharmacogenomics or personalized medicine. Not only has CVS Caremark tapped Per Lofberg, co-founder of genetic benefit management company Generation Health, to serve as the PBM president, but it also has upped its stake in Generation Health.

Generation Health will continue to operate as a separate business from CVS Caremark, but CVS Caremark will have financial and strategic ties to the company, as well as representation on its board of directors.

The moves are undoubtedly in line with CVS Caremark’s efforts to move well beyond a traditional retail pharmacy role and into a pharmacy healthcare service company aimed at improving health outcomes and lowering healthcare costs.

PGx clinical services are expected to be introduced to CVS Caremark’s PBM clients in the second quarter 2010, and will initially focus on testing programs for medications in the areas of oncology, cardiovascular medicine and HIV, among others. In addition, the partnership opens the door for future programs to test for certain hereditary diseases.

According to Generation Health, genomic testing represents a $3 billion market that is growing 45% annually. There are at least 100 new tests added each year and they are usually priced at several hundred dollars each.

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