HEALTH

Record number of Fortune 500 Cos. score ‘100’ on 2017 Corporate Equality Index

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON —  The nation’s major companies are advancing in record numbers vital policies and practices to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workers around the world, according to the 2017 Corporate Equality Index released Monday by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.

“Even in the face of relentless attempts to undermine equality, America’s leading companies and law firms remain steadfast and committed to supporting and defending the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people,” stated Chad Griffin, HRC president. “The unprecedented expansion of inclusive workplaces across the country and around the globe not only reflects our progress, it helps drive it.  As we enter a new chapter in our fight for equality, support from the business community will be more critical than ever to protect our historic advancements over the last decade and to continue to push equality forward for workers, customers, and families around the world.”

This year, a record-breaking 517 businesses earned the CEI’s top score of 100, up from 407 last year. That’s a single-year increase of more than 25% — the largest jump in the 15-year history of the nation’s premiere benchmarking tool for LGBT workplace equality. Leadership demonstrated by these businesses reflect more than a decade of work inside these companies to expand LGBT, and particularly transgender, workplace equality.

“It’s an honor to be acknowledged once again by the Human Rights Campaign for our commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce that aligns with our mission to champion everyone’s right to be happy and healthy,” stated Stevens Sainte-Rose, chief human resources officer at Walgreens. “We recognize the importance of fostering the growth and development of all our employees. Our WPride and Allies business resource group has been especially helpful with evolving our policies and practices for more than a decade to help ensure a welcoming workplace for all.”

“Our company’s success depends on the rich diversity that our colleagues, customers and suppliers bring to CVS Health,” added Lisa Bisaccia, EVP and chief human resources officer for CVS Health and executive sponsor of the company’s LGBT resource group. “To sustain breakthrough innovation, we must seek out, listen to and leverage everyone’s voices and ensure that every individual feels equally valued, respected and appreciated.”

“Through 15 editions of the annual Corporate Equality Index, major private sector employers have demonstrated over and over that inclusion is not just the right thing to do, it makes for a stronger, more successful business,” said Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program. “From centuries-old companies to those that have existed for just a few years, major employers have adopted LGBT-inclusive policies and benefits at rates that continue to outpace lawmakers and lead the way forward.”

Over the last several years, CEI-rated companies have dramatically expanded their support for transgender workers. When the CEI launched, just 3% of Fortune 500 companies had non-discrimination protections that included gender identity. Today, that number is 82%.  In a historic display of support for transgender equality, 68 companies joined HRC to file an amicus brief earlier this year supporting the U.S. Department of Justice’s effort to block some of the most egregious anti-transgender aspects of North Carolina’s HB2 law. And more than 200 business leaders signed on to an open letter urging North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and the state’s General Assembly to repeal the harmful law.

The Corporate Equality Index was launched in 2002 to assess LGBT-inclusive policies and practices at Fortune 500 companies. This year 887 companies and firms were officially rated and, in addition to the record number of companies receiving a perfect score of 100, progress continued across workplaces, including:

  • 93% of rated companies had adopted sexual orientation equal employment policies for U.S. and global operations and 92% had gender identity equal employment policies for U.S. and global operations;
  • Same-sex domestic partner or spousal benefits were provided by 98% of rated companies; and
  • 73% of rated companies offer transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage, up from 60% from last year, the largest single year increase in trans-inclusive health benefits since the coverage was added to the CEI.

In the retail pharmacy space, the following companies were recognized with a perfect score of 100:

  • BJ's Wholesale Club,
  • BMS,
  • Boehringer Ingelheim,
  • Cardinal Health,
  • Colgate Palmolive,
  • CVS Health,
  • Delhaize America,
  • Eli Lilly,
  • GlaxoSmithKline,
  • Johnson & Johnson,
  • Kimberly-Clark,
  • Mallinckrodt,
  • McKesson,
  • Merck,
  • Nielsen,
  • Pfizer,
  • Procter & Gamble,
  • Quest Diagnostics,
  • Sanofi,
  • Sears Holdings,
  • Takeda Pharmacueticals USA,
  • Target,
  • Unilever,
  • Walgreens and
  • Walmart.

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DNA Diagnostics Center acquires Identigene

BY Michael Johnsen

FAIRFIELD, Ohio — DNA Diagnostics Center on Friday acquired Identigene, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sorenson Genomics.

Details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Identigene, based in Salt Lake City, Utah was established in 2007 as the first in-home DNA paternity test collection kit sold through retail outlets nationwide. Today, the Identigene brand is distributed at more than 20,000 retail store locations throughout the United States, including CVS, Walmart and Rite Aid.

The business will relocate to DDC's corporate headquarters and laboratory facility in Fairfield, Ohio.
 

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Nanowear gains FDA approval for first-of-its-kind wearable: undergarment that tracks cardiac health

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Nanowear, an early stage developer of cloth-based diagnostic monitoring nanosensor technology, on Thursday announced that it has received FDA Class II 510(k) clearance for its first product, SimplECG, a remote cardiac monitoring undergarment.

SimplECG collects continuous multi-channel ECG, heart rate and respiratory rate data from the garment and transfers it to a web-based portal for review by a physician, by way of a mobile application. The initial version of the product is iPhone-based.

"This is a big milestone for our young company," stated Venk Varadan, CEO Nanowear. "The FDA's decision not only positions us for commercial opportunities in remote cardiac monitoring, but more importantly, it provides accreditation of the company's one-of-a-kind, cloth-based sensor technology as medical-grade," he said. "This is the first step and foundation of what we believe to be an extensive array of applications for our nanosensor technology – including numerous other electrical, biometric and biochemical signals that can be measured directly from the skin without conductive gels, adhesives or skin preparation. The market of applications for healthcare alone is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity, but as we look beyond to consumer, industrial, clinical research, military and public sector applications, the addressable market expands exponentially."

This marks the company's first FDA clearance, and reflects Nanowear's strategy of differentiating itself in an otherwise crowded market for wearables, with an eye towards the future of the "Connected Self." SimplECG will provide an easier and more patient-friendly means of capturing and transmitting diagnostic data via everyday garments in an effort to monitor heart behavior and prevent cardiac-related events.

"As healthcare continues to evolve and move beyond the walls of the hospital, easy-to-use and clinically validated solutions are essential to ensure patient compliance and actionable diagnostic insights for physicians and providers," stated John Zimmerman, chief medical officer, Nanowear.

The company has worked in partnership with the FDA since early 2015 to understand the unique dynamics of this device, specifically the nanosensor technology. "Our discussions were collaborative and interactive, culminating in this announcement," Varadan said.

Having spent the last two years focused solely on product development and the regulatory process, Nanowear will now focus its near-term efforts on product commercialization, strategic partnerships and continued development of complementary products and applications for chronic disease states.

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