Posted by on in Biopharma

The first approval of a gene therapy for congenital disease in the US (Luxturna) inaugurates a new – though long anticipated – era for therapeutics. Along with questions around durability of response and long-term safety, pricing and reimbursement is a particular challenge. At $850,000, the price of Luxturna is nominally higher than other high-cost specialty medicines. However, as a one-time cost with a multi-year benefit, the cost per year of efficacy is far lower. This is not a new challenge for the industry: Hepatitis C antiviral therapies such as Sovaldi and Harvoni offered a similar proposition. While a number of… Read More

Posted by on in Providers

During the UnitedHealth quarterly earnings call earlier this month, Larry Renfro, CEO of Optum, offered some additional color on the growth of OptumCare: “Combined with [Davita], OptumCare will be in 35 local care delivery markets, nearly one-half of the 75 markets targeted for engagement or development. And these market operations are still in the early stages of growth and development” (per transcript on SeekingAlpha). Yet, based on our data, we think OptumCare (including Davita Medical Group and its MedExpress and Surgical Care Affiliates components) is already present in Hospital Referral Regions (HRRs) which include 74% of the US population. How… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

Playing chess against cancer Tumors are not intelligent, but, because they have escaped mutational control, they constantly probe for mutations that will allow them to escape chemotherapeutic suppression. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a frequent driver of malignancy in the lung and as such, a target for EGFR inhibitors such as erlotinib (Tarceva, Roche) or gefitinib (Iressa, Astra Zeneca); unfortunately, tumors initially responsive to these agents quickly develop mutations which make them resistant. Osimertinib (Tagrisso, Astra Zeneca) was designed to overcome the most common resistance mutations and has been approved as rescue therapy for cancers that progress under… Read More

Posted by on in Network strategy, Payers, Providers

(For background on Pennsylvania market, please take a look at previous note here) Summary The UPMC/Highmark rivalry continues to open new fronts in Pennsylvania Highmark’s response to UPMC is differentiated in two ways: first, Highmark is using a coalition building strategy and, second, it is controlling its exposure to big in-patient assets; in contrast, UPMC is building an integrated, single-brand system and happily taking over hospitals (and building more) along the way When UPMC and Highmark make major investments in a region, local systems will be caught in the capex arms and feel the pressure to affiliate. Credibly… Read More

Posted by on in Network strategy, Providers

(For Louisiana market context, please take a look at previous notes on Ochsner here and here) Before the holidays, Ochsner signed an LOI to take over the management of ailing University Health located in Shreveport and Monroe and affiliated with LSU Health Sciences Shreveport. The details have yet to be finalized and public disclosure of discussions do not necessarily mean a deal will be made. But Ochsner has been looking at the system for a while and must know its warts and the state appears to have precluded other partnership options. The two other big Louisiana… Read More

Posted by on in Biopharma, NEJM Highlights

Successes in gene therapy for hemophilia B and A Hemophilia A and B are X-linked genetic diseases which prevents the formation of functional coagulant factors VII and IX respectively and cause a propensity to bleeding in about 20,000 people in just the US. The standard of care of intravenous administration of recombinant factors is effective but also burdensome, expensive, and does not fully prevent the disabling sequellae of the disease caused by repeated bleeding in the joints. A possible cure is to deliver a functional copy of the defective gene piggy-backed on a viral vector. The proof of concept for… Read More

Posted by on in Network strategy, Payers, Providers

OptumHealth and its proposed acquisition target DaVita Medical Group (DMG) have a lot in common: Ambulatory care portfolios: physician practices, urgent care centers and ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) – both directly owned and affiliated via owned independent practice associations (IPAs) Geographic position: multiple states and markets Advantaged model: within-market cross-referrals and care collaboration which should support market share, economics and a value-based care advantage Construction: largely assembled via acquisition resulting in similar challenges in integrating operations (e.g. multiple EHRs, management structures) In short, the DMG acquisition is a classic horizontal play. And the assets coming from both sides are significant… Read More

Posted by on in Network strategy, Payers, Providers

Who will be the first to take integrated health care delivery national? A few years ago, the best bet might have been an established provider with a nationally compelling brand and a growing affiliate federation such as Cleveland Clinic or Mayo. Instead, Optum – just a decade ago three separate services largely focused on serving United’s health benefits business – has entered care delivery and — by a constant stream of acquisitions big and small — built up beachheads in a majority of markets and is – via ongoing big acquisitions, tuck-ins and greenfield expansions – laying the foundations of… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

Two new therapies against a horrible congenital disease – but trouble ahead on pricing… Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disease that declares itself at a few months of age, and typically leads to death before the second birthday. Two studies for two different therapies are reported in the Journal. First, the final results for a phase 3 placebo-controlled trial studying nusinersen (Spinraza, Sarepta, approved by FDA Dec 2016) therapy which involves monthly injections into the infant’s spine of an RNA-based drug. These show a clear beneficial effect over placebo (good enough for FDA approval), but still a high… Read More

Posted by on in Network strategy, Providers

UPMC’s recent spectacular deal-making careen through central Pennsylvania (picking up the big Susquehanna and Pinnacle systems as affiliates and Tower as a joint venture partner all in under a year) contrasts oddly with its tentativeness at home: in mid-September, UPMC unexpectedly scuttled plans to build a 90-bed, $211M hospital in the South Fayette suburb of Pittsburgh just a week after signing a deal with a developer which would have launched construction. Spokespeople said UPMC is “pursuing other, more significant strategic options” (per Pittsburgh TribLive). Perhaps UPMC caught early wind of the latest contrivance of its local… Read More