Correspondent, U.S. health team leader
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Apr 4, 2012

Medicine spending rose to $320 billion last year

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – A raft of new medicines pushed spending on drugs modestly higher last year, but the gains were curbed by weak prescription use as Americans avoided doctor visits, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Overall U.S. spending on medicines reached $320 billion in 2011, up 3.7 percent from 2010, according to the report from IMS Health, a healthcare information and services company. The increase was just 0.5 percent on a per capita basis.

Apr 2, 2012

Express wins FTC clearance, closes Medco buy

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – U.S. antitrust regulators approved Express Scripts Inc’s (ESRX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) purchase of rival Medco Health Solutions Inc (MHS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the Federal Trade Commission said on Monday, following a contentious eight-month review.

The roughly $29 billion deal, first announced in July, combines two of the three largest U.S. pharmacy benefit managers into the clear industry leader. Separately, the companies announced they completed the deal.

Mar 30, 2012

Analysis: HMO investors breathe easier about health law ruling

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Now that the Supreme Court has given a glimpse of how it will consider the healthcare overhaul, more investors in health insurance stocks are breathing easier about the eventual ruling.

Wall Street is less worried about the worst-case scenario for insurers: that the court strikes down the individual mandate requiring people buy insurance, but keeps in place provisions that could force insurers to cover more sick, high-cost Americans.

Mar 28, 2012

Hospital pay incentives fail to help patients: study

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – A program to pay hospitals bonuses for hitting key performance measures, or dock them if they miss, failed to improve the health outcomes of patients, according to a large, long-term study.

The study could lead to a re-examination of financial incentives in healthcare, as policymakers seek ways to reward results rather than paying doctors and other providers for each service they provide, such as a diagnostic test.

Mar 28, 2012

Express Scripts-Medco deal could close next week

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Express Scripts Inc (ESRX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) may close its $29 billion acquisition of Medco Health Solutions Inc (MHS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) as soon as next week, the U.S. pharmacy benefit managers said on Wednesday.

Medco’s shares rose 3.3 percent after the companies disclosed the new timelines in securities filings, as investors bet that the risk that U.S. antitrust regulators would block the deal was disappearing.

Mar 28, 2012

Merck says key Vytorin study cleared to continue

March 28 (Reuters) – A closely watched study of Merck & Co
Inc’s Vytorin cholesterol treatment was cleared to
continue by safety monitors, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.

Wall Street has been eagerly anticipating the interim report
for the 18,000-patient Improve-It study to see whether Vytorin
is helping improve heart outcomes, and thereby increase sales
for the franchise.

Mar 22, 2012

Analysis: Investors weigh chaos as high court reviews health law

NEW YORK (Reuters) – At Aetna Inc’s headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut, about two dozen employees devote all their working hours to one task: making sure the health insurer is up to speed with President Barack Obama’s U.S. healthcare overhaul law.

On a part-time basis, more than 1,000 more employees are also working daily on activities tied to the overhaul as the No. 3 U.S. health insurer seeks to comply with the regulations and communicates the changes to its thousands of customers.

Mar 22, 2012

Watson shares rise on more optimism for Actavis deal

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Shares of Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc (WPI.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) rose more than 5 percent on Thursday, extending their gains on optimism over benefits from a possible acquisition of rival generic drugmaker Actavis.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that New Jersey-based Watson was close to buying Swiss-based Actavis for around $7 billion. Shares of Watson jumped 8.8 percent on Wednesday after the report, which cited sources familiar with the matter. Spokesmen for Watson and Actavis declined to comment on the report on Wednesday.

Feb 28, 2012

UnitedHealth to buy two Florida health plans

Feb 28 (Reuters) – UnitedHealth Group Inc
plans to buy two Florida health plans to increase its U.S.
market-leading position in providing Medicare plans for the

Health insurers have been striking deals to boost their
Medicare operations as the baby boom generation born after World
War II becomes eligible for the government program, swelling its

Feb 23, 2012

Express Scripts says moving on without Walgreen

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Express Scripts Inc (ESRX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said on Thursday it was moving forward successfully without Walgreen Co (WAG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) in its pharmacy network, citing wide support from clients.

Chief Executive Officer George Paz said the pharmacy benefits manager remained open to talking with Walgreen, “but it has got to be in the best interest of our shareholders and patients.”

    • About Lewis

      "I help coordinate coverage of healthcare companies for Reuters in the United States. I also cover health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, generic drugmakers and pharmaceutical companies."
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