PHARMACY

PharMerica acquires minority stake in specialty pharmacy Onco360

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Institutional pharmacy PharMerica Corp. has acquired a minority stake in specialty pharmacy company Onco360, the two companies said Monday.

Onco360, which focuses on oncology services, and PharMerica called the stake "significant," and PharMerica will have the option to acquire the rest of the company over the next several years, but financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Onco360 currently has sales of more than $100 million per year.

"We are pleased to have reached this agreement and to have PharMerica’s vote of confidence in our unique oncology care platform," Onco360 CEO Burt Zweigenhaft said. "This partnership will allow us to further expand our franchise on a national scale and provide more patients with the best oncology care possible. Working with PharMerica, we will build upon and further improve the outstanding service levels and capacity that our clients have come to expect from us."

 

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Newly approved hepatitis C treatment by Gilead Sciences said to offer major advance in treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

FOSTER CITY, Calif. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for hepatitis C made by Gilead Sciences, the drug maker said Friday.

Gilead announced the approval of Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) tablets in the 400-mg strength, intended to be taken once per day for chronic hepatitis C as part of a combination antiviral treatment regimen by patients with genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the virus. The FDA gave Gilead priority review and breakthrough therapy designations for the drug, which it does for experimental medications that may offer major advances in treatment over existing options.

According to Gilead, patients with genotype 1 or 4 should take the drug with pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin for 12 weeks; those with genotype 2 should take it with ribavirin for 12 weeks; and those with genotype 3 should take it with ribavirin for 24 weeks. Chronic hepatitis C affects about 4 million people in the United States, mostly those born between 1945 and 1965, and it is the leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants, in recent years surpassing HIV and AIDs as a cause of death. The current standard of care involves up to 48 weeks of treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin.

"I believe that Sovaldi will have a major impact on public health by significantly increasing the number of Americans who are cured of hepatitis C," Weill Cornell Medical College researcher and chief investigator in the Sovaldi clinical trials Ira Jacobson said. "In clinical studies, Sovaldi in combination with other agents achieved very high cure rates while shortening the duration of treatment to as little as 12 weeks and reducing or completely eliminating the need for interferon injections, depending on the viral genotype."

 

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Retail clinics continue to gain strong momentum

BY Antoinette Alexander

Seattle-based regional pharmacy chain Bartell Drugs will open, in early 2014, retail-based clinics inside three of its stores under a partnership with local health organization Group Health Cooperative.

The importance of the news isn’t just the fact that this will mark Bartell’s foray into the convenient care clinic arena but also that it speaks to a much broader notion — 2014 will be the year of the clinics. Yes, we have said it before and we’re saying it yet again.

With healthcare reform bringing millions of Americans into the insurance fold, the anticipation is palpable and players within the community pharmacy space are increasingly stepping up to demonstrate the important part they play in improving patient outcomes. This is placing a renewed focus on the retail-based clinic model and operators are working to expand their scope of services, grow their footprints and forge clinical affiliations with major healthcare systems.

In fact, just days after Bartell’s announcement it was revealed that CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic has expanded to its 28th state with the opening of clinic locations inside select CVS/pharmacy stores in New Hampshire, and the clinic operator also has formed a new clinical collaboration with Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the largest healthcare system in New Hampshire.

In addition, RediClinic, a Texas-based operator of care clinics based in H-E-B grocery stores, unveiled its newest version of Weigh Forward, its weight and lifestyle management program, which is being dubbed Weigh Forward 2.0.

Clearly, convenient care clinics are communicating their vital role as a provider of quality, affordable and convenient healthcare but what’s more important — patients and payors are listening.

As FierceHealthcare has reported, researchers found that if retail-based clinic visits make up for 10% of all outpatient primary care visits by 2015, national cost-savings would be $2.2 billion. If nurse practitioners in all 50 states practiced independently, that would add on an additional $810 million. That savings could grow even more — by $472 million — if nurse practitioners could prescribe on their own too. That is significant.

 

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