Business briefs: PwC, Novartis, iDoc24, FDA

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The late Mayor Ed Koch was famous for asking “How'm I doing?” A consumer survey by analytics firm PwC shows the answer would be silence if Koch's question were asked by the healthcare business. The report, which tracked how consumers navigate the healthcare space, kicked around the usual patient-centric/service ideas with examples from other retail models as examples, but amid this data was a blip that further showed the divide between healthcare and lifestyle consumerism. “When it comes to actually sharing good experiences, 70% of consumers share in retail, while 54% share in the healthcare provider industry and 44% share in the healthcare insurance industry.” PwC researchers said the difference may be attributed to a slow industry response rate to things like patient surveys. This difference, however, doesn't mean patients aren't talking: PwC said patients “rely on personal networks to make healthcare decisions, particularly in provider selections.” Independent search is also part of patient research, but where they are looking may not be where providers are most prominent, such as retail clinics or online. Researchers also said 90% of 18- to 24-year olds “would engage in health activities through social media.”

Novartis is moving 120 Texas jobs from its Alcon subsidiary to Massachusetts, reported the Star-Telegram, which said the laid-off employees “will be allowed to apply for jobs in Cambridge as well as for other positions with Alcon.” Novartis bought the ophthalmic company two years ago.

Using mobile search for personal matters isn't a new trend, but data from the diagnosis app STD Triage shows just what's happening when global consumers use the iDoc24 service. Health 2.0 reported that 73% of last month's queries came from men between the ages of 14 and 57 and 70% of users were able to resolve their problems with OTC treatments, while doctors recommended 25% see a physician. Patients send photos and get a physician's advice for a fee. The data was released with the CDC's sexually transmitted disease month as a backdrop.

FDA's warning letter staff got a workout: the regulator issued a warning letter dated March 27 to Wyeth Lederle, a Pfizer subsidiary in Italy, over manufacturing issues. The FDA also issued a warning letter to Alexion Pharmaceuticals, dated March 22, over manufacturing issues, noting that the Connecticut-based pharma's actions to fix previously documented problems “lacks sufficient corrective actions.” Unrelated, but also regulatory: Commissioner Margaret Hamburg is scheduled to appear before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee April 14 for further discussions regarding the meningitis outbreak that killed 51 people who received contaminated steroid injections made by the New England Compounding Center last year. The commissioner noted on the FDA blog last month that the agency needs more authority to monitor compounders.  Pharmalot's interview with Janet Woodcock and Howard Sklamberg of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research provides some additional perspective on the situation.

Ogilvy CommonHealth named Paul O'Neill to lead its Wellness Marketing consumer group. O'Neill joins the WPP shop from ICC Lowe, where he spent 11 years, most recently as chief growth officer for the global network, leading acquisition plans, overhauling the business development and pitch processes and expanding the network's global footprint in key markets.

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