PHARMACY

AbbVie, Ablynx sign deal for investigative autoimmune drug

BY Alaric DeArment

GHENT, Belgium — Belgian drug maker Ablynx is licensing an experimental treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus to U.S. drug maker AbbVie in a deal worth up to $840 million, the companies said.

The two drug makers announced that AbbVie would license the drug ALX-0061 for an upfront payment of $175 million plus milestone payments worth up to $665 million, as well as royalties. The drug belongs to a class known as anti-interleukin-6R nanobodies, which work by targeting an immune-system protein pathway that plays a key role in the inflammation associated with RA.

Under the deal, Ablynx will complete the mid-stage clinical trials of the drug currently underway in patients with RA and systemic lupus erythematosus. After fulfilling pre-defined success criteria, AbbVie will in-license the drug and be responsible for late-stage development and commercialization, while Abblynx will have an option for co-promotion in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.


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PHARMACY

Walgreens Healthcare Clinic, Inovalon deal represents further advancement for convenient care industry

BY Antoinette Alexander

Walgreens Healthcare Clinic (formerly known as Take Care Clinic) has formed a multi-year agreement with healthcare technology company Inovalon to provide Inovalon’s data-driven encounter support platform, Electronic Patient Assessment Solution Suite (ePASS), within Healthcare Clinic at select Walgreens.

The news clearly represents yet another step in Walgreens’ commitment to improving patients’ access to healthcare solutions. In fact, the news comes about a week after the retailer announced that it is bringing access to Theranos’ new lab testing service through Walgreens pharmacies nationwide.

It is important to also note that the partnership with Inovalon represents another advancement for the convenient care industry. As retail-based health clinics continue to play an increasingly vital role in the U.S. healthcare system, having nurse practitioners working within such clinics utilizing the power of analytics to provide a higher level of individualized care to patients is significant.

And the timing is likely not coincidental. Having such analytics available in a point-of-care environment is bound to prove beneficial as healthcare reform brings some 30 million Americans into the insurance fold come 2014.

The reality is that the industry shouldn’t be surprised to see more of such partnerships as the number of retail-based health clinics is projected to double in the next three years, according to a report by Accenture ACN, and pharmacy retailers work to strengthen their foothold along the front lines of health care.

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Three key milestones show Rite Aid’s continued progress

BY Alaric DeArment

Rite Aid reported its second quarter 2014 earnings Thursday, posting its fourth-consecutive profitable quarter, its passing the 1,000 mark in the number of stores it has converted to the Wellness format and more than 930,000 members of Wellness65+, the latest extension to its Wellness+ loyalty care program, aimed at seniors.

In other words, the country’s third-largest drug store chain has once again shown it’s on a roll. In light of the latest earnings, the company raised its guidance for fiscal year 2014, expecting a profit of between $182 million and $268 million. The chain’s performance has pushed its stock price to a one-year high; it closed at $4.83 on the New York Stock Exchange Monday, up by 3.43%.

While those factors that are within Rite Aid’s control — such as its highly successful loyalty card and store conversion programs — continue to hold promise and benefit the company’s earnings, there are still headwinds resulting from factors outside its control. Among these, the company cited reimbursement rate pressure, pharmaceutical cost increases and lower benefit from new generics. In a conference call with financial analysts Thursday morning, chairman and CEO John Standley said generic drug costs had been higher and would likely put pressure on guidance over the next two quarters. In his presentation at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Total Store Expo last month, IMS Health VP industry relations Doug Long cited rising generics costs as a concern as well.

Nevertheless, it’s a testament to Rite Aid’s resilience as a company that it still expects to make a profit at the end of the year. Last month, even Jim Cramer of CNBC’s "Mad Money" proclaimed, "The group is strong. Rite Aid is back!" Of course, DSN has been saying that for a while.

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