(Reuters) – UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, helped by increased membership across its array of health plans.
The largest U.S. health insurer by market value also backed its 2012 earnings forecast, which includes the potential for a decline in profit but which many analysts have seen as conservative. Shares rose 1.4 percent.
(Reuters) – Forest Laboratories Inc (FRX.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted a quarterly profit above Wall Street’s target on Tuesday, helped by increased sales of its drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, depression and hypertension.
The mid-sized U.S. drugmaker also nudged up its earnings forecast for its fiscal year, which ends in March. The company’s shares rose 3 percent.
(Reuters) – Health information website WebMD Health Corp (WBMD.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) took itself off the auction block and warned investors of lower 2012 profits as its advertisers in the drug industry pull back on spending.
Shares of WebMD, in which activist investor Carl Icahn owns a nearly 10 percent stake, tumbled 29.8 percent on the news.
(Reuters) – Eli Lilly & Co forecast a sharp plunge in profits for 2012, the first full year its top-selling Zyprexa schizophrenia treatment faces generic competition, and its shares fell as much as 3.6 percent.
Like other drugmakers, Lilly is facing patent expirations on its most important medicines, leading generic competitors to erode billions of dollars in revenue. But unlike rivals such as Pfizer Inc, Lilly is not significantly cutting spending, including on research, in order to shore up profits.
(Reuters) – Medco Health Solutions Inc’s (MHS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) shareholders overwhelmingly approved the company’s $29 billion acquisition by rival pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Inc (ESRX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) as concerns ease over whether regulators will allow the deal.
The merger of the two largest U.S. managers of prescription drug benefits would create the clear leader in the field, giving the combined company even more leverage to negotiate better prices with drugstores and pharmaceutical companies.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline Plc executive German Pasteris is in charge of an Alzheimer’s treatment that is years from reaching the market, if it ever does. But he already wants to make sure the global healthcare system will pay for it.
Pasteris is one of 25 executives appointed last year to shepherd the British drugmaker’s experimental medicines. He consults insurance companies and former officials from national health agencies about the Alzheimer’s drug on the best way to show its value to patients.
(Reuters) – U.S. health officials will allow states to select the basic set of medical benefits that must be offered by insurance plans participating in new exchanges mandated by the federal healthcare overhaul, the U.S. government said on Friday.
The Department of Health and Human Services announcement relates to the so-called essential health benefits for millions of Americans expected to qualify for coverage sold through state-based insurance exchanges beginning in 2014.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The chief executive of Merck & Co (MRK.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) on Tuesday defended his refusal to slash the drugmaker’s $8 billion research budget and warned that global price constraints threaten the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to innovate.
The drug industry is embroiled in a debate over whether companies are spending too much on research given a poor track record in developing new drugs. Investors are asking whether that money should be spent elsewhere to produce better financial returns.
(Reuters) – UnitedHealth Group Inc, the largest U.S. health insurer, predicted an overall increase in membership next year as gains in its Medicare and Medicaid plans more than offset declines in some plans serving employers and individuals.
UnitedHealth, already one of the largest providers of Medicare plans for the elderly, projected on Tuesday that it would add as many as 300,000 Medicare Advantage members next year.
(Reuters) – UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the largest U.S. health insurer, gave a 2012 earnings projection that barely met Wall Street’s target, but analysts said the outlook was likely conservative.
UnitedHealth, whose shares rose nearly 3 percent in early trading, said last month that it expected higher 2010 earnings but did not give a specific forecast. Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley also outlined “considerable” challenges, including a weak economy and price competition in some markets.