Business briefs: Baxter; Eli Lilly; CDHPs and Statins

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The Alzheimer's pipeline appears to have lost another contender. Baxter International announced Tuesday that its experimental drug Gammagard failed to help mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's patients on cognitive or functional criteria. FDA has signaled willingness to approve drugs if they improved one of these two functions among patients. Baxter said in a statement it is halting its current drug study and “will reconsider its current approach for its Alzheimer's program.” The company said it will examine some sub-group data more closely, particularly among patients carrying a genetic indication of Alzheimer's risk.

A study published in Health Affairs shows that puzzling out why patients aren't using healthcare services cannot be blamed on the economy. Instead, researchers found that insured patients started to dial back their use of healthcare services – meaning office visits and prescriptions – well before the economy bottomed out in 2008. Researchers said employee out-of-pocket costs for primary care began rising 1.9% a year between 2006 and 2012, with 47% of insurance plans assessing a co-payment of more than $25 for office visits by 2012, and more than $30 for specialists. Researchers said the rise of Consumer Directed Health Plans, which are high-deductible plans, is not a sufficient explanation, because they discourage use of high-priced services and would skew the results in that the plans would make it look like there is low-cost sharing going on, masking the reality that patients are are dealing with high out-of-pocket costs for lower-tier, and lower-cost services.

Lilly is laying off more reps than initially reported, the Indianapolis Business Journal noted Monday. The IBJ said that instead of cutting 700 full-time permanent positions, or 30% of its sales staff, per an April 11 announcement, the company is actually trimming 40% of its sales jobs, bringing the total losses to 1,624, instead of the fewer than 1,000 expected. Looming patent expirations for Cymbalta and Evista are behind the layoffs.

Although researchers are careful not to draw a correlation between prostate cancer survival and statin use, the New York Times reports that a survey of cancer patients found “non-statin users were five times more likely to die of prostate cancer than those who used statins.”  The Times also noted the drugs are not recommended as a preventative measure.

It's not just parents who are keeping clear of the Centers for Disease Control screening/vaccination recommendationsMedPageToday reported Monday that a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Sciences meeting in Philadelphia showed that pediatricians are largely failing to screen adolescents for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Researchers found that physicians tested adolescents about 3% of the time, while the CDC recommendation is for universal screening.

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