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January 28, 2013
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The Franciscan Alliance hospital system has signed a deal with Philadelphia-based health insurer Cigna Corp. to offer an accountable care plan to Cigna’s customers in the Indianapolis area. Mishawaka-based Franciscan will use the same accountable care organization it formed in 2011 to work with the federal Medicare program. That organization includes Franciscan hospitals in Carmel, Indianapolis and Mooresville, as well as 600 physicians in central Indiana. Franciscan and Cigna will rely heavily on case managers, who will help patients, especially those with chronic diseases, navigate the health system. The case managers will use Cigna data to identify patients in need of such attention and will in some cases refer patients to Cigna’s health management and wellness programs.

Warsaw-based DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. kept selling an artificial hip implant even after the doctors it paid as consultants on the product had begun abandoning it and after the product had failed an internal test, according to internal company documents disclosed in a legal case and summarized by The New York Times. DePuy, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson, recalled the troubled hip implant, called the Articular Surface Replacement, or ASR, in 2010. The company has been the target of 10,000 lawsuits filed by patients who had to receive a second hip implant after the ASR failed. The device has been prone to shedding large amounts of metallic debris inside patients. DePuy’s own internal estimates show they expected the ASR to fail in 40 percent of patients within five years of their hip-implant surgery.

Greenwood-based Elona Biotechnologies Inc., which has been trying to bring a generic version of insulin to market, is running out of cash and struggling to find new investors. The company told Greenwood officials of its financial troubles earlier this month, which prompted the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission to vote Jan. 17 to declare Elona in default on $8.4 million of economic development incentives the city gave the company in 2010. Wendy Brewer, an attorney for the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission, said one potential investor in Elona wants the company’s exposure under the incentive programs altered as a condition of investing in Elona. “We’re continuing to talk to them,” Brewer said, adding that the company’s finances dictate that a decision be made in a couple of weeks. Greenwood loaned $6.4 million to help Elona build a 50,000-square-foot, $28 million insulin-production plant in Greenwood and hire 70 workers. The city also gave Elona $1.5 million to help it win approval for its insulin from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and $500,000 for equipment. So far, Brewer said, Elona has made no progress on its jobs commitments. Elona, founded by a former Eli Lilly and Co. scientist, has made its business doing contract drug manufacturing for other firms. But its growth plans hinged on making a generic version of insulin, something that was not allowed in the United States until the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act. That law called for a pathway for “biosimilar” versions of biotech drugs, including insulin. As it stands now, a drug such as Lilly’s Humulin insulin faces no generic competition even though its patent expired in 2001. Nearly a year ago, the FDA issued draft guidance on “biosimilar” drugs that indicated it would require additional clinical trials of a biosimilar drug. That means a company like Elona would have to spend significant money to test its drug in patients before the FDA would declare it similar to an existing insulin. Calls to Elona founders Ron and Donna Zimmerman were not returned Tuesday morning.

WellPoint Inc. ended the year on a high note, posting fourth-quarter sales and profit that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations. The Indianapolis-based health insurer earned $464 million, or $1.51 per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, a 38-percent leap from the same quarter a year earlier. Excluding investment gains and one-time charges, WellPoint would have earned $1.03 per share. On that basis, analysts were expecting 95 cents per share. Membership in WellPoint’s health plans shot up nearly 8 percent in the fourth quarter to more than 36 million nationwide. That represented a net gain of  more than 2.6 million customers. The increase was entirely attributable to WellPoint’s $4.9 billion acquisition of Virginia-based Amerigroup Corp., which added 2.7 million members in Medicaid plans. But the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer on Wednesday gave analysts a conservative forecast for 2013, due in part to a daunting list of expenses it could face. WellPoint will spend roughly $300 million this year preparing for coverage expansions under the health care overhaul coverage and changes to its Medicare Advantage business. The insurer also expects to spend as much as $125 million integrating Amerigroup into its business, and it says it could take hits from flu claims, possible cuts to Medicare funding and an increase in health care use. Counting those expenses, WellPoint expects to earn at least $7.60 per share in 2013 compared to the $8.18 per share it earned last year.

St. Vincent Health will add air medical service at Rush Memorial Hospital in Rushville. The new StatFlight helicopter base, scheduled to open in late April or early May, will be St. Vincent's fourth helicopter base in Indiana. The others are located in Anderson, Danville, North Vernon and West Lafayette. St. Vincent contracts with PHI Air Medical LLC to operate its StatFlight air medical service.

The Community Health Network hospital system has created a new partnership with Indianapolis-based Lutheran Child and Family Services to provide treatment for children who have experienced trauma and are dealing with behavioral challenges. Indianapolis-based Community will help Lutheran manage the behavioral health services for children and adolescents at Lutherwood, a youth residential treatment facility, and Trinity House, a transitional group home for young men. The collaboration also will include community-based programs previously managed separately under Indianapolis-based Gallahue Community Mental Health Center and Lutheran. Lutheran will continue to offer spiritual care programs of its own for children and their families. Community serves more than 25,000 behavioral health patients each year. Its behavioral health unit employs more than 600 physicians, psychologists, advance practice nurses, psychiatric nurses, therapists, counselors, life skills specialists and care managers.

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