Business briefs: Lundbeck, FDA, Tower Watson and National Business Group Study, Merck

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Lundbeck and Otsuka announced Thursday that the companies are deepening their partnership. The companies said in a joint statement that in addition to launching the extended release schizophrenia medication Abilify Maintena on March 18, the companies will expand their existing co-promote arrangement for Abilify to 14 countries, including Denmark, Finland and Germany, as of April. Lundbeck will go it alone in seven countries, including Ireland, Belgium, Poland and Romania.

The old-school drug-rep-and-samples approach remains a mainstay among pharmaceutical marketers according to a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health study that surveyed ad spend between 2001 and 2010. For all the excitement about new channels, researchers found little evidence that companies are putting their money where their mouths are. Internet marketing accounted for just 2% of marketing budgets over the nine-year period. Spending peaked in 2004, and dropped 25% by 2010 to $27.7 billion, the study said.

The FDA rule that clinical trial results should be published within a year is largely going ignored, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine Monday. The study found that the actual time between research and publication is closer to two years, with 21 months being the median time. Researchers also found that the median lag was greater for industry-funded trials (24 months) than for government-funded ones (20 months).

A report from Tower Watson and the National Business Group on Health, a coalition of large employers, said employers expect total healthcare costs for “active employees” to rise 5.1 percent in 2013 to $12,136 -- a jump of $679 from 2012. The study also pointed out that growth in employer health care costs slowed this year, increasing 5% -- the slowest rate of growth in the past 15 years. The sluggish economy and uncertainty about the effects of the Affordable Care Act are prompting employers to shift the cost of premiums onto employees to the tune of 37% in 2012, a 3% increase from the prior year. Employers see that trend continuing -- 80% of respondents said they will continue to increase the share of premiums paid by their workers. Even as employees continue to shoulder the brunt of higher health care costs, only 26% of polled employers are “very confident that health care benefits will be offered by their organizations in 10 years from now,” according to the report.

Merck announced today that R&D chief Peter Kim is retiring and will be replaced by Roger Perlmutter, who was previously the R&D lead at biotech Amgen. The shuffle up top has been greeted as a welcome change by analysts disappointed by a string of pipeline failures. Analyst Barbara Ryan said Perlmutter “has tremendous experience with biologics….he takes risk, and I think it is a sign that Ken Frazier is willing to take bold steps to improve returns." Leerink Swann's Seamus Fernandez said: “Most investors we speak with are disappointed by Peter Kim's tenure" and added that "we believe a transition makes sense at this time.” Perlmutter's new role, as EVP and president of Merck Research Laboratories (Merck's global R&D organization), goes into effect starting April 15, 2013.

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