Business briefs: Medtronic, Novo Nordisk, plus OIG's latest probe

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Medtronic expanded its technology reach for $200 million. The Wall Street Journal reports that the device firm has put up $200 million in cash to buy disease management/patient monitoring company (sub. req'd) Cardiocom. WSJ says the move puts Medtronic in the thick of hospital and payer efforts to reduce the cost of chronic-disease patients who suffer from conditions like heart failure and diabetes through efforts like remote patient monitoring. Medtronic said in a statement that the acquisition “is in support of Medtronic's transition toward expanding the company's medical device product offerings to broader healthcare services and solutions, providing meaningful clinical and economic value for hospitals, physicians, patients and payers.”

Novo Nordisk has set a date for obesity. Elsevier's Pink Sheet reports that the drug maker will file liraglutide, aka, Victoza, for an anti-obesity indication next year (sub. req'd). The expanded indication could provide a marketplace buffer should Eli Lilly's experimental dulaglutide get approved and start setting up shop in the GLP-1 space. Trials of Lilly's dulaglutide show it to be equal to what's already on the market, but Novo has been diligent about promoting Victoza by expanding its investment in the sales force and marketing for the once-daily treatment. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline recently announced a delay for its GLP-1 hopeful, albiglutide, and Victoza has been focused on outpacing Bristol-Myers Squibb/AstraZeneca's Amylin and Bydureon.

Cutbacks have made Office of Inspector General (OIG) attempts to study fraud and waste all but out of reach. MedPage Today reports that layoffs have reduced the Health and Human Services watchdog division's ability to pursue cases that touch on topics including the impact drug shortages have on patient safety, the use of atypical psychotics in nursing homes and off-label promotion of Medicare Part D drugs. This doesn't mean the agency is idle—the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the OIG is investigating the use of atypical antipsychotics (like Otsuka's Abilify) among Medicaid's 17-and-under set (sub. req'd). Data crunched by Mathematica Policy Research says that Medicaid spent $3.6 billion on antipsychotics in 2008, up from $1.65 billion in 1999. WSJ notes that antipsychotics are the program's major spending category.

The European Commission approved Teva's version of Amgen's Neulasta (pegfilgrastim), but before biosimilar-pathway fans take this as a sign of something bigger, PMLive notes that Teva's Lonquex was approved as a novel medicine, not a biosimilar. The EC approved Lonquex for neutropenia and febrile neutropenia.

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