PHARMACY

ABC posts 3% revenue gain with $80.2 billion in sales

BY Michael Johnsen

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. — AmerisourceBergen on Tuesday recorded revenues of $20.4 billion for fourth quarter 2011 ended Sept. 30, up 3.5%. Diluted earnings per share increased 8% to 54 cents. For the year, AmerisourceBergen posted $80.2 billion in revenue, up 2.9%.

"Solid results across all of our business units drove excellent performance in the September quarter and in our full fiscal year 2011, resulting in another strong year in a series of very strong years," AmerisourceBergen president and CEO Steven Collis said. "Outstanding performance in the two key growth drivers for our business — generic pharmaceuticals and specialty distribution and services — continues to drive gross margin expansion, which resulted in significant operating margin expansion for the sixth year in a row."

While specialty distribution sales in 2012 is expected to be moderate, AmerisourceBergen is very well-positioned for future specialty pharmaceutical launches, Collis told analysts Tuesday morning. "In September, we acquired IntrinsiQ, a leading provider of informatics solutions that help community oncologists make treatment decisions for their patients. IntrinsiQ is now part of Specialty Group’s ION Solutions, and the combination of IntrinsiQ software applications and ION Solutions’ existing oncology technology platform will enhance the company’s proprietary data offerings to both physicians and manufacturers," he said.

AmerisourceBergen also successfully combined its consulting and packaging businesses into one operating unit called AmerisourceBergen Consulting Services, which Collis believes will expand opportunities for both businesses. And two additional recent acquisitions included Premier Source, a small pharmaceutical consulting company, that expands AmerisourceBergen’s service offerings in a fast-growing areas of molecular diagnostics and emerging biotech. And TheraCom, which closed Tuesday, expands AmerisourceBergen’s offerings in reimbursement consulting on products that are covered by the pharmacy benefit. "These … additions to the consulting group and the addition of IntrinsiQ to the Specialty Group, a combined investment of $300 million, strengthen our positions in the markets where we are already a leader with services that clearly differentiate us from our peers, and strengthen our relationship with manufacturers and providers," Collis said.

Amerisource projected diluted earnings per share for fiscal year 2012 to be in the range of $2.74 to $2.84, an 8% to 12% increase over fiscal year 2011 earnings per share of $2.54 (those EPS were up 14.4% versus fiscal 2010).

"Key assumptions supporting the increased diluted earnings per share range for fiscal year 2012 are flat to modest revenue growth; operating margin growth in the high single-digit to low double-digit basis points range; and free cash flow in the range of $700 million to $800 million, which includes capital expenditures in the $150 million range. Subject to market conditions, we expect to spend approximately $400 million to repurchase our common shares in fiscal year 2012."

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PHARMACY

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Cardinal Health develop clinical pathways program for RA

BY Michael Johnsen

BALTIMORE — CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions on Tuesday launched the nation’s first clinical pathways program for rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissue and affects nearly 2.1 million Americans each year.

"Working with Cardinal Health on a similar program focused on oncology, we have learned that physicians embrace the opportunity to take an active, leading role in working to improve the quality and reduce the costs of patient care," stated Winston Wong, associate VP at CareFirst Pharmacy Management. "We’re excited to apply P4 Pathways’ physician-centric approach to pioneer innovative new ways to improve the way we care for patients with rheumatoid arthritis."

Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions provides clinical, reimbursement and distribution services to help healthcare professionals, payers, and pharmaceutical and biotech companies deliver quality, cost-effective care to patients with complex diseases. One of its flagship service offerings, P4 Pathways, helps payers and physicians to work together to develop evidence-based clinical protocols, or pathways, to improve the way care is delivered to patients with complex diseases.

CareFirst is one of the largest managed care health plans in the Mid-Atlantic, serving nearly 3.4 million members in Maryland, the District of Columbia and portions of Northern Virginia.

Together, CareFirst and Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions have engaged nearly 70 rheumatology practices and more than 100 rheumatologists to participate in a new P4 Pathways program with the goal of improving the quality of care and reducing costs of caring for rheumatoid arthritis patients. The program is focused on helping physicians implement a "treat-to-target" approach to RA care, where they test different treatment options until a patient’s symptoms are in remission.

A steering committee comprised of rheumatologists throughout the CareFirst network worked together to develop the clinical pathways and will meet regularly to update the pathways as new clinical evidence is available. Recognizing the importance of physician involvement in the development of pathways, the steering committee is moderated by Norman Gaylis, managing partner of Arthritis and Rheumatic Disease Specialists in Aventura, Fla. The steering committee is chaired by Herbert Baraf and Alan Matsumoto, who are managing director and senior partner of Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates in Wheaton, Md., respectively.

Participating physicians will leverage information derived from each patient’s Clinical Disease Activity Index score — which measures the degree to which patient mobility is impacted by RA — to standardize the way rheumatologists treat RA patients. When CDAI scores indicate that patients have not favorably responded to a therapy after three months, CareFirst’s new RA pathways program provides guidance to help participating rheumatologists determine the next, most appropriate treatment option.

"Innovative programs like this are creating a new paradigm for enabling payers and physicians to work together to improve the quality and costs of care," said Roshan Girglani, VP and general manager of rheumatology for Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions. "Our ultimate goal is to leverage collaborative efforts like this to ensure patients continue to have access to quality, personalized care in the community practice setting — where care is proven to be most convenient and cost-effective."

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PHARMACY

FDA approves Endo generic Plendil

BY Alaric DeArment

CHADDS FORD, Pa. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug made by Endo Pharmaceuticals for high blood pressure.

Endo announced Wednesday the approval of felodipine extended-release tablets in the 2.5-mg, 5-mg and 10-mg strengths. Endo’s generic drugs division, Qualitest Pharmaceuticals, will manufacture and distribute the product.

The drug is a generic version of AstraZeneca’s Plendil extended-release tablets. Felodipine had sales of about $84 million during the 12-month period ended in June, according to IMS Health.


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