HEALTH

Bayer Diabetes Care helps patients save money, make life easier

BY Michael Johnsen

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. Bayer Diabetes Care announced Monday the availability of the new Bayer Simple Saver Program, which offers qualified people with diabetes several ways to save on their out-of pocket costs for test strips, making testing more affordable and life with diabetes simpler.

“Bayer is launching the new Simple Saver Program to make glucose monitoring more affordable,” said Michaela Griggs, VP U.S. marketing at Bayer Diabetes Care. “Because the cost of testing supplies can become a burden during an economic climate such as this, we designed our program to offer more options to save on test strips, versus other programs available, to help alleviate this challenge and simplify life for people with diabetes. Now people can continue to test at prescribed levels with less financial worry.”

When a consumer qualifies, Bayer will pay up to $360 per year, depending upon his or her state of residence or health plan. 

The Bayer Simple Saver Program can be accessed by consumers via Web site which will be promoted through Bayer advertising, physician offices, online, through Bayer customer service and in pharmacies across the country.  Most consumers will be able to save instantly at the pharmacy counter in nearly all locations nationwide.

The program is completely free for consumers and can be used in most states, Bayer reported.

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Merck, Schering-Plough agree to merge

BY Michael Johnsen

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck and Schering-Plough Corporation Monday morning announced that their respective boards have unanimously approved a definitive merger agreement under which Merck and Schering-Plough will combine, under the name Merck, in a stock and cash transaction.

Under the terms of the agreement, Schering-Plough shareholders will receive 0.5767 shares and $10.50 in cash for each share of Schering-Plough. Each Merck share will automatically become a share of the combined company. Merck chairman, president and CEO Richard Clark will lead the combined company.

Based on the closing price of Merck stock on March 6, 2009, the consideration to be received by Schering-Plough shareholders is valued at $23.61 per share, or $41.1 billion in the aggregate. This price represents a premium to Schering-Plough shareholders of approximately 34 percent based on the closing price of Schering-Plough stock on March 6, 2009. The consideration also represents a premium of approximately 44 percent based on the average closing price of the two stocks over the last 30 trading days.

 “We are creating a strong, global healthcare leader built for sustainable growth and success,” Clark said. “The combined company will benefit from a formidable research and development pipeline, a significantly broader portfolio of medicines and an expanded presence in key international markets, particularly in high-growth emerging markets. The efficiencies we gain will allow us to invest in strategic opportunities, while creating meaningful value for shareholders.

“We look forward to joining forces with an outstanding partner we know well and that shares our commitment to patients, employees and the communities where we work and live. Through their talent and dedication, Schering-Plough employees have built an industry leading R&D engine and late-stage pipeline that is complementary to our own. We are confident that, together, Merck and Schering-Plough will make a meaningful difference in the future of global healthcare,” Clark added.

Fred Hassan, chairman and CEO of Schering-Plough, said, “Over the last six years, Schering-Plough colleagues have transformed our company into a strong competitor in the global pharmaceutical industry. We have built a strong, diverse business and a robust pipeline that offers hope to patients who are waiting for new medicines. I am proud of what we have accomplished. Our success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our colleagues in every country. We are joining forces with Merck, our long-term partner in our cholesterol joint venture, to create a dynamic new leader in the pharmaceutical industry. By harnessing the strengths of both companies, the combined entity will be well-positioned to further deliver on our shared goal of discovering new therapies for patients to help them live healthier, happier lives.”

Peter Kim, Merck EVP and president of Merck Research Laboratories, is confident that the combined pipeline will be a great success in the industry.

“The talent and dedication of Schering-Plough scientists has helped to build an outstanding clinical development pipeline,” Kim said. “Schering-Plough’s considerable biologics expertise will complement Merck’s novel proprietary biologics platform and aligns with our commitment to build a powerful biologics presence. The Schering-Plough and Merck pipelines are remarkably complementary and will greatly increase our ability to deliver important new medicines to patients.”

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Merck & Co. announces merger with Schering-Plough Corp.

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK

Weeks after Pfizer announced that it would acquire Wyeth, another large drug maker has announced major acquisition plans.

Merck & Co. announced Monday that it would buy Kenilworth, N.J.-based Schering-Plough Corp. for $41.1 billion, or $23.61 per share. The combined company will use the Merck name.

The companies said the deal would boost their research and development pipelines, bringing the total number of drug candidates in phase 3 testing to 18. It also would create an expanded product portfolio, particularly in such therapeutic areas as cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, cancer, neuroscience, infectious diseases, immunology and women’s health. In addition, Merck will acquire Schering-Plough’s extensive OTC division.

Despite the expanded pipelines and portfolio, however, the pipeline overlap is minimal; both companies have similar IGF-1R monoclonal antibodies for colorectal cancer in their pipelines, which could require the new company to divest one of them.

“[It’s] remarkable, but it’s probably the only case where we have pipeline overlap, which lead to a decision probably as to what we are going to do in terms of prioritization,” Merck Research Laboratories president and EVP Peter Kim said in a conference call with investors and analysts. “And given the size of these two pipelines and the degree of complementarity, it’s really quite remarkable that there is only really that one case where I think we are going to have to make a decision.”

The boosted pipeline, product portfolio and OTC division could give the Merck a leg up as big drug makers face increasing generic competition. The drug maker is already one of the world’s largest, with $17.6 billion in sales and more than 121 million prescriptions in 2007, according to IMS Health data.

Vytorin (ezetimibe and simvastatin), which both companies developed, had global sales of $4.6 billion last year, according to Merck financial data, but it has faced challenges, as the Food and Drug Administration warned last August that it had received reports of potentially fatal muscle damage in patients using simvastatin and the arrhythmia drug amiodarone, the active ingredient in Wyeth’s Cordarone and Upsher-Smith’s Pacerone. In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Steven Nissen, a cardiovascular medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic and then-candidate for the post of FDA commissioner, had harmed Merck’s sales by calling the safety of Vytorin into question. And in January, an FDA review of a study comparing Vytorin to Merck’s Zocor (simvastatin) found no significant difference between the thickness of the walls in carotid arteries – an indication of the risk of cardiovascular disease – between patients taking Zocor and those taking Vytorin, though the Vytorin patients had lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.

One major reason for Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth was Wyeth’s strong OTC portfolio; Pfizer had sold its OTC division to Johnson & Johnson, which has since benefited, particularly as consumers tend to disproportionately use OTC products in a tough economy. Schering-Plough’s OTC division could similarly benefit Merck, with its high-selling products such as the Claritin (loratadine) line of antihistamines and the Miralax (polyethylene glycol) line of laxatives.

Since 2000, Merck has made three attempts to switch the anti-cholesterol drug Mevacor (lovastatin) to an OTC product, though this has run into resistance from the FDA, the most recent attempt occurring in 2007; the FDA issued a nonapprovable letter to Merck concerning the switch in January 2008 after an advisory committee voted against it. The committee cited a study indicating that while 98% of consumers appropriately chose not to take the medicine, only 16% of those who did used it appropriately, Drug Store News reported at the time.

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