PHARMACY

Anda symposium a time for relationship and reflection

BY Michael Johnsen

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. For some companies attending NACDS Annual, the action began long before the National Association of Chain Drug Stores programs.

That was the case Friday morning, as more than 125 industry executives gathered here at PGA National for the second annual Anda Supply Chain Symposium, and not just to hit the links with fellow colleagues either.

Although with famed golf instructor to the pros Hank Haney, who has worked with everyone from Tiger Woods to Charles Barkley, on hand to help tighten up their games, the golf was no doubt a major draw. But in keeping with the tradition of the event, now in its second year, the true purpose of the Anda Supply Chain Symposium is to bring together the company’s — now the fourth largest distributor of generic pharmaceuticals in the country — key customers and business partners to reinforce those relationships, as well as reflect on the current business climate and the macro forces that are shaping it. On hand to talk about the politics of health reform was Linda Tarplin of the D.C. consulting firm Tarplin, Downs & Young.

Tarplin, who has served in senior positions in the White House and Department of Health and Human Services — perhaps, most notably, as special assistant for legislative affairs to President George H.W. Bush, serving as the White House liaison to Congress on healthcare issues — talked about the “scope and magnitude” of the current debate around healthcare reform.

“One of the things that makes it so monumental is the scope of what they are trying to do,” Tarplin explained. “They are trying to provide coverage for 43 million uninsured Americans. They are also trying to change the entire way that we pay for healthcare. And the third thing that they are trying to do is contain costs.”

Tarplin described the present climate as both “challenging and optimistic,” but it’s also “a bit frightening at the same time,” she said, because of the sheer number of people influencing the current debate — a debate which she said repeats itself every 15 to 20 years in Washington.

While she expected some changes to occur this year, and has not written off completely the chances of Congress achieving true bipartisan reform — she laid the odds at about 45%, she said — there remain many differences on both sides of the aisle that must be addressed in the coming months, including individual versus employer mandates, a government plan option and the how to pay for all of this reform.

To be sure, many lessons have been learned on both sides, Tarplin said. “For one thing, you have an administration that isn’t packaging up a written bill of thousands of pages and launching it on the desks of the members of Congress. That didn’t work [before], and it’s never going to work,” she said.

But it most certainly is not a slam dunk for either side. Democrats can’t exactly railroad wide scale health reform on their own. With mid-term elections next year, it is critical that any wholesale reform at least be perceived to have come about as the result of broad-based bipartisan support. At the same time, there is a decided mandate in this country to fix health care, and Republicans cannot afford to be perceived as having done nothing. Voters of all kinds are demanding changes in the healthcare system, and one area that all can agree upon is the need to contain the rising cost of health care.

If there is to be “broad-scale health reform in Washington it is because we are using the mantle of cost-containment as the real goal of all of this,” Tarplin said.

At the very least, the industry can expect some incremental change to occur, perhaps in the form of a Senate reconciliation bill that would aim to expand Medicare, perhaps to include the 50- to 64-year-old population, she said.

On a more inspirational note, former New York Giant captain George Martin discussed his journey across America. Martin walked from New York to San Diego, raising more than $4 million to help cover medical costs for first responders to the Sept. 11 attacks.

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PHARMACY

Vertex reports Q1 earnings

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Vertex Pharmaceuticals ended first quarter 2009 with $869 million in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities, the company announced Thursday.

The company is conducting a phase 3 study of telaprevir, a protease inhibitor for treating hepatitis C in patients who have not received treatment or for whom other treatments have failed. In March, Vertex started a phase 2a trial of VX-809, a compound designed to treat cystic fibrosis, and it also plans to start trials for the investigational CF drug VX-770 in the United States and Europe.

“With our strong performance in the first quarter, we are well-positioned to drive forward key programs in hepatitis C and cystic fibrosis and to deliver on our 2009 financial projections outlined earlier this year,” Vertex president Matt Emmens said. “Our top priority is to execute on the telaprevir phase 3 program and to prepare for [a new drug application] filing for telaprevir in the second half of 2010.”

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Drug maker’s shares fall after HHS requests regulatory filing

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK A Department of Health and Human Services request that companies bidding on a government contract to provide anthrax vaccines give a regulatory plan to the Food and Drug Administration in 15 days caused shares of one of the companies to fall by 5.5% in afternoon trading on Friday, according to published reports.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that PharmAthene submitted a regulatory filing saying that HHS did not provide sufficient information. The HHS request caused PharmAthene’s shares to fall by 15 cents, to $2.56.

The Annapolis, Md.-based company makes the anthrax vaccine SparVax.

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