Business briefs: Healthcare reform, J&J, Lilly, Quest

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While Congressmen rallied Wednesday for another symbolic attempt to overturn healthcare, President Obama took Thursday to talk up the benefits of healthcare reform, and focused on the healthcare rebates that insurers have had to issue under the legislation. The reform kicks into a higher gear October 1, when the health exchanges open for business. Most people will have to have health insurance by 2014, and the key ways to get coverage are through an employer's insurance plan, health exchanges (sometimes called marketplaces), and government programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid. The legislation has had a bumpy implementation, including the recent move to push off the requirement that employers provide coverage until 2015. Efforts to help consumers navigate the new space continue to pile up, including the site, which offers users an inviting interface that tries to make requirements appear approachable, with an airy landing page and supporting information pages that try to be informative without appearing overwhelming. The Kaiser Family Foundation has taken an animated approach, bringing back its YouToons characters from 2010 to explain who needs to shop for insurance and how it's being paid for. The Kaiser Foundation's video is not without its sense of balance, and notes during the funding explanation through the use of a frowning rich person that some people will have to pay more than others. Meanwhile, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services has upped its ACA communications investment to around $80 million: PRWeek reports that the government agency has kicked an additional $33 million to Weber Shandwick to increase awareness about the federal health exchanges among the uninsured.

Johnson & Johnson has settled a shareholder lawsuit that alleges the company's poor management triggered a list of woes that have included congressional investigations, reduced revenue and dented consumer confidence for $23 million, reports Pharmalot. The settlement is strictly financial, and Pharmalot notes the company admits to no wrongdoing. The company's series of recalls is a long one, and the drug maker's over-the-counter presence is not what it was – the company projects its will reclaim about 75% of its OTC distribution by the end of the year.

Eli Lillilians will not be getting raises. The company is freezing salaries for its executives, supervisors, and the majority of its workers, reports Bloomberg, which also notes the company is going to take a knife to bonuses. The Indiana company is on the brink of rival trends: its diabetes pipeline could give the drug maker entrée into just about every insulin option. It is also working to polish its Alzheimer's offerings, first, with another go-round of solanezumab testing and its PET scanning efforts. But the future payoff is not enough to counter the present financial challenges, including the 2014 Cymbalta and Evista patent expirations.

Quest Diagnostics has sold its interest in Janssen/Johnson & Johnson's experimental oral cancer drug ibrutinib. The drug was put up for FDA review July 11, and projections about the drug's potential earnings hover around the $5-billion mark. Quest said Wednesday that it sold its royalty stake to Royalty Pharma for $485 million in cash. CEO Steve Rusckowski said the move is part of Quest's decision to keep its focus limited to core diagnostic services. The rights ended up on Quest's books when it purchased Celera two years ago.

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