PHARMACY

Report: Federal judge hears arguments in ESI-Medco merger case

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — A federal judge in Pittsburgh will rule "later" on whether to block or allow a merger between pharmacy benefit managers Medco Health Solutions and Express Scripts, and is considering a request by two trade groups seeking to keep Medco’s operations and assets separate from ESI while the lawsuit is pending, according to published reports.

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that attorneys for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and independent pharmacies and ESI argued for three hours before judge Cathy Bissoon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The pharmacy groups argued that the PBMs’ merger would violate antitrust laws and reduce services to retail pharmacy customers. The groups filed the suit on March 29 following the Federal Trade Commission’s approval of the merger.

ESI’s attorneys countered that stopping the $29.1 billion merger would cause significant harm to the PBM because it already had spent more than $230 million on integration and sharing of information.

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PHARMACY

Takeda acquires URL Pharma

BY Alaric DeArment

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Takeda Pharmaceutical will acquire privately owned drug maker URL Pharma for $800 million, the companies said Wednesday.

Takeda announced that it would acquire Philadelphia-based URL through a U.S. subsidiary for the upfront payment plus future milestone payments. Takeda said it expected the acquisition to contribute "significantly" to its sales and profits starting in fiscal year 2013.

The purchase also includes URL’s Colcrys (colchicine), a drug used to treat and prevent gout flares that had sales of more than $430 million in 2011. Takeda already markets another gout drug, Uloric (febuxostat), which is used to lower blood uric levels in adults with the disease.

"This acquisition expands Takeda’s gout treatment portfolio and leverages our expertise in primary care," Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. president Douglas Cole said. "Gout affects more than 8 million Americans, and the prevalence of gout is rising."


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Cardinal’s advertising network drives consumer action, Nielsen study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

DUBLIN, Ohio — A digital advertising network for retail pharmacies set up by one of the country’s largest healthcare services companies appeared to be effective in marketing products to consumers, according to a new study.

Nielsen released results of an audience-research study Wednesday showing that Cardinal Health’s Pharmacy Health Network, which streams advertisements and educational content on flat-panel LCD screens in retail pharmacies, encouraged customers to discuss products and brands with their pharmacists and physicians and take materials from brochure racks accompanying each Pharmacy Health Network screen. The network had more than 1.2 million advertising exposures over a four-week period, according to Nielsen.

"Consumers are taking action and talking with their physicians about products they learn about on our network," Pharmacy Health Network senior manager John Disher said. "Pharmacy Health Network has received an overwhelmingly positive response from advertisers and consumers alike, and we look forward to expanding the number of stores and advertisers that participate in the program."

According to the study, more than 80% of respondents rated the network’s content as "excellent" or "good," while almost 90% found it informative. About half said they felt encouraged to discuss products or brands with their pharmacists, while 16% later discussed them with their physicians, and 11% purchased products they had seen advertised.


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