CVS’ bid for Aetna–will it happen, and kick off a trend? (updated)

We have scant facts about the reported bid of US drugstore giant CVS to purchase insurance giant Aetna for a tidy sum of $200 per share, or $66 billion plus. This may have been in development for weeks or months, but wisely the sides are keeping mum. According to FOX Business, “an Aetna spokesperson declined to chime in on the reports, saying the company doesn’t “comment on rumors or speculation” and to Drug Store News, a CVS Health spokesperson did the same. Aetna’s current market cap is $53 billion, so it’s a great deal for shareholders if it does happen.

Both parties have sound reasons to consider a merger:

  • CVS, like all retailers, is suffering from the Amazon Effect at its retail stores
  • Retail mergers are done with the Walgreens Boots AllianceRite Aid merger going through considerable difficulties until approved last month
  • The US DOJ and Congress has signaled its disapproval of any major payer merger (see the dragged-out drama of Aetna-Humana)
  • It has reportedly had problems with its pharmacy benefit management (PBM) arm from insurers like Optum (United HealthCare), and only last week announced that it was forming a PBM with another giant, Anthem, called IngenioRx (which to Forbes is a reason why this merger won’t happen–this Editor calls it ‘hedging one’s bets’ or ‘leverage’)
  • Aetna was hard hit by the (un)Affordable Care Act (ACA), and in May announced its complete exit from individual care plans by next year. Losses were $700 million between 2014 and 2016, with over $200 million in 2017 estimated (and this is prior to the Trump Administration’s ending of subsidies).
  • It’s a neat redesign of the payer/provider system. This would create an end-to-end system: insurance coverage from Aetna, CVS’ Minute Clinics delivering care onsite, integrated PBM, retail delivery of care, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies–plus relationships with many hospital providers (see list here)–this Editor is the first to note this CVS relationship with providers.

We will be in for more regulatory drama, of course–and plenty of competitor reaction. Can we look forward to others such as:

  • Walgreens Boots with Anthem or Cigna (currently at each others’ throats in Delaware court
  • Other specialized, Medicare Advantage/Medicare/Medicaid networks such as Humana or WellCare?
  • Will supermarkets, also big retail pharmacy providers, get into the act? Publix, Wegmans, Shop Rite or Ahold (Stop & Shop, Giant) buying regionals or specialty insurers like the above, a Blue or two, Oscar, Clover, Bright Health….or seeking alliances?
  • And then, there’s Amazon and Whole Foods….no pharmacy in-house at Whole Foods, but talk about a delivery system?

Also Chicago Tribune, MedCityNews.

UPDATED. In seeking an update for the Anthem-Cigna ‘Who Shot John’ court action about breakup fees (there isn’t yet), this Editor came across a must-read analysis in Health Affairs 

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Innovate UK’s £12m innovation challenge; Chiaro gains £4.8m for women’s health tech

The Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst program now has a £12m challenge program for innovative projects in several healthcare areas, including:

  • stratified healthcare (both therapy and diagnostic components)
  • advanced therapies (cell and gene therapy)
  • diagnostics
  • digital health
  • enabling medical technologies and devices

The fund was established by Innovate UK, the Medical Research Council and Scottish Enterprise. Deadline for challenge registration is midday 31 May. A few more details: projects must be led by an SME either working alone or with others; projects can range in size from £250,000 to £4 million and to last between 12 and 36 months; businesses could attract up to 70 percent of their project costs. Innovate UK/Gov.UK page.

‘Fem-Tech’ is a new term to this Editor, but it perfectly describes Chiaro with its smart pelvic floor exercise tool and app, Elvie. It was originally grant-funded by Innovate UK, but has gained an additional £4.8 million from Octopus Ventures and Allbright for a total funding of £9.6 million. It is profitable with direct sales of £800,000, which is another proof that innovators ‘playing the niches’ in the current fragmented environment may be the smartest of all. Plans include building on current major retailers including John Lewis and Amazon, developing three more smart female health products and expand into 25 countries. Innovate UK/Gov.UK page  Hat tip for both Innovate UK items to our Eye on Tenders, Susanne Woodman.

Dream team or dance of the dinosaurs? Another view of Legrand’s recent acquisition

The recent news of  Legrand’s acquisition of Jontek Ltd to join Tynetec in their Assisted Living & Healthcare Business Unit stirs many nice memories, as this editor has much to thank both Tynetec, and Jontek for.

Once Tynetec quality was a match for the other major player in the telecare market, their competition was truly appreciated in restraining the cost of delivering telecare. They were enormously helpful, particularly when this editor was working in Surrey. However at the end of the day, their systems, like the other major competitors in the market, were proprietary. Thus once a Tynetec dispersed alarm unit was installed, only Tynetec peripherals could be added.

Jontek on the other hand were able to receive alerts from all the major telecare players, so enabled mixed economies (as we had in Surrey) to be managed by the same call centre. Although “for legal reasons” there were problems with getting (more…)

Wearables and mHealth: a few observations

The Telegraph reports on the creation of Amazon UK’s wearables store, following on from their US launch that we covered on April 30th. Unlike in the original US launch, locating the store is not that challenging, however it is very much a jumble of products: if you know what you want then you probably don’t need a store to find it; if you don’t, there’s precious little to guide you to find the right product.

One of the wearables they’ll doubtless think carefully before stocking is (more…)

Wearables and Simple Telehealth – another step forward?

In addition to Managing Editor Donna’s items on the opening of the Amazon Wearables Store, and the use of wearables by older ‘quantified selfers’,  Prof Mike Short has kindly drawn our attention to the most recent BBC Click programme which features wearables. Of particular interest to me was the first item on how Formula 1 technology involving measuring drivers’ heart activity is now being developed for the mass market, at rather lower cost. That will overcome a serious limitation of existing activity trackers that rely on accelerometers – for example my Jawbone UP faithfully measures every step I take whether walking or on a cross-trainer. However sessions on the rowing machine – or indeed a recent row in the London Head of the River race (for me definitely the most physically exhausting event so far this year), record no activity.

Another intriguing way of measuring heart activity is (more…)

Amazon’s new wearables ‘store’ needs a location guide

click to enlargeAmazon’s flashy ‘wearable technology store’ which debuted today (29 April) is touted by a company representative as “…an exciting category with rapid innovation and our customers are increasingly coming to Amazon to shop and learn about these devices.” It features all the trendiest fitness bands too: Misfit Shine, the new Jawbone Up24 sleep tracker, smartwatches, wearable cameras, healthcare devices and even an Editor’s Corner with Advice for the Wearable-Lorn. The store is well stocked for fitness/wellness devices and smartwatches, but the shelves are bare for healthcare devices: the 12 listed include sleep tracker Lark, Withings and BodyMedia along with the exceedingly pricey HeartMath and iHealth telehealth products. The unfortunate problem is for those without the direct link to find the store. A search will divert you to a list of products. It isn’t listed under Electronics, nor if you search ‘wearable technology’, not listed under Departments or the show results for category bar (both at left). It’ll be fixed, being Amazon, and it does point to the now high profile of wearables. Amazon release, Silicon Republic (which features Amazon as a tech employer) Hat tip to Contributing Editor Toni Bunting, who reminded this Editor today that none of this appears on Amazon.co.uk!