The shifting landscape of American health care - for good or bad, depending on your opinion, status, employer, and particular changes - was evident Tuesday when one of the Philadelphia region's larger private employers, Johnson & Johnson, reported financial results for the third quarter of 2013.
The health-care giant had increased sales and profits, but also greatly increased the money set aside to pay pending legal bills, and warned of possible layoffs in a local division because people are postponing elective surgery to repair knees, hips, and backs.
J&J's sales of $17.6 billion and profits of $3 billion for the quarter ending Sept. 30 were higher than the same period of 2012. The figures were boosted by the introduction of patent-protected and profitable prescription drugs. The company's stock, $89.92 at Tuesday's close, has risen more than $20 in the last 12 months. That helps many people, including those who don't know that the stock is in their pension or 401(k) plan. Like drugmakers Pfizer and Merck, J&J is among the 30 companies used to calculate the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson reported increases in sales and profit in the third quarter of 2013, but also said it increased the money it set aside to deal with legal bills.
Indications are that J&J and the Justice Department are getting closer to finalizing an agreement related to allegations of improper marketing of its antipsychotic drug Risperdal. J&J also faces patient lawsuits related to multiple products.
J&J is headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J., and has multiple operations around Philadelphia.
Drugmaker AstraZeneca said Tuesday that it has bought Spirogen, a privately-held biotech company that focuses on so-called "antibody-drug conjugate" technology that is used in oncology. AstraZeneca will pay $200 million up front and then $240 more if Spirogen products reach development and commericial milestones.
AstraZeneca is based in London, with a planned move to Cambridge, but has a big operation in Wilmington and Newark, Del.
AstraZeneca made the purchase through its subsidiary MedImmune, its global biologics research and development arm.
Bernstein Research analyst Tim Anderson, who has graduate degrees in medicine and business, has long told clients of the great history of Merck research and development and even upgraded his outlook on the stock as late as 2009, after it bought Schering-Plough.
But on Monday, he told clients he has downgraded the outlook from "outperform" to "market-perform."
Merck is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J. On Oct. 1, the drugmaker announced 8,500 more layoffs by the end of 2014 and a narrowing of focus of R&D. MRK is Merck's ticker symbol.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., said Thursday morning that it will cut 5,000 jobs, roughly 10 percent of its global workforce, by the end of 2014.
Teva is based in Israel, but its Americas headquarters is in North Wales and it has other operations in the Philadelphia region.
Here is the Teva statement:
- $2.0 billion in annual cost savings by the end of 2017 including $1.0 billion by the end of 2014
- Approximately 10% reduction in global workforce in 2014
- Will invest in R&D and Sales and Marketing for high potential programs
QR Pharma is a five-year-old start up based in Berwyn, but the young company has connected with well-known people and groups as it seeks funding to make drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
In 2012, QR Pharma got $468,000 from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) to conduct research on compound called Posiphen as a potential treatment for Parkinson's. This grant is for work that will be led by Dr. Robert Nussbaum of the University of California, San Francisco and Jack T. Rogers, an associate professor of psychiatry at the genetics and aging research unit of Massachusetts General Hospital.
On Tuesday, QR Pharma said it it got $3 million from the U.S. Army to study Posiphen as a treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI). This grant is to study the medication in two different trials in mice and it will be conducted in conjunction with the University of California Los Angeles. The UCLA doctors involved are Marie-Francoise Chesselet and David Hovda. Chesselet is chairwoman of the neurobiology department at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Hovda has been honored by the Army for his work in developing ways to treat TBI.
Among the many illogical aspects of American healthcare is that pharmaceutical companies pay fees to the federal government to help fund the process of drug evaluation at the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA is supposed to protect citizens from bad food and drugs. This is what tax money is supposed to do, just like other sensible government functions.
The drug companies want the FDA approval for legal but also commercial reasons: If consumers think the government checked out the food and drugs, then perhaps the food and drugs are safe enough to consume.
Shire trying to convince Europeans, like Americans, that most kids have ADHD...and then most adults?
Sometimes children are fidgety. Sometimes they have lots of energy. Sometimes parents and adults can't find a time or place for them to run around. Sometimes children can't focus on what adults would like them to read, either Dr. Seuss or Shakespeare.
Sometimes all of that is also true of adults.
Shire Pharmaceuticals argues that much of that fidgeting is because of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and people should be prescribed Shire's medicine. And once those children grow up, having gotten used to the medicine, they should stay on it forever. Or at least until they die.