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June 24, 2013
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It looks like Eli Lilly and Co. has a winner. The Indianpaolis-based drugmaker’s experimental diabetes drug dulaglutide helped patients with Type 2 diabetes lose weight while suffering only manageable side effects, according to Phase 3 clinical trial data released over the weekend at the American Diabetes Association meeting in Chicago. According to Bloomberg News, dulaglutide, if approved, may be a significant competitor to Novo Nordisk A/S’ Victoza, which generated $1.64 billion in 2012. A clinical trial comparing the drugs may report results by the end of the year. “We look at the space and we feel we have an opportunity to offer a significant new product,” said Sherry Martin, senior medical director for diabetes development at Indianapolis-based Lilly. The company plans to submit the drug to U.S. regulators for approval by the end of this year. Dulaglutide is projected to sell $835 million in 2018, according to the average of six analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Martin said the drug would be the only weekly injection in the class that doesn’t require patients to prepare the dose for administration.

The California Public Employees Retirement System saved $5.5 million, or 19 percent of its affected medical claims, under a two-year pilot project with Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc. that steered patients away from high-cost health care providers that don’t produce better outcomes. WellPoint executives told Bloomberg News that the cost-capping, or reference-pricing, policy employed in the pilot program is now gaining momentum among employers. The California pension program, known as Calpers, became a partner in the pilot program after a WellPoint analysis found similar hip and knee surgeries cost anywhere from $15,000 to $110,000 per patient, with no difference in patient outcomes, according to Bloomberg. So in 2011, Calpers and WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross unit began steering patients toward 46 hospitals that agreed to keep their costs below $30,000—known as the program's “reference price.” If workers went to another provider, then they were responsible for any costs above $30,000. About 400 members opted for the designated hospitals in 2011, a 21-percent increase over previous years. Calpers’ in-patient costs for hip and knee surgeries dropped to an average of $28,695 from $35,400, according to WellPoint. The study was conducted by HealthCore, a research unit owned by WellPoint, and released Sunday at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting in Baltimore.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine blocked the progression of Type 1 diabetes among newly diagnosed patients using a drug originally sold to treat psoriasis. In a clinical trial involving 49 patients, those who were given the drug alefacept (sold under the brand name Amevive) kept producing the same amount of insulin over the next year, while patients receiving a placebo saw their level of insulin drop over the same period. If the results are repeated in studies involving more patients, the drug could enable Type 1 diabetics to maintain some insulin production and avoid the debilitating complications caused by the disease, said Dr. Mark R. Rigby, a professor of pediatrics at the IU medical school. Nearly 3 million people are estimated to have Type 1 diabetes in the United States. Although the disease can be managed with insulin injections, it cannot be reversed or cured. Long-term complications can include visual impairment, heart disease, stroke, problems in the extremities leading to amputation, and other problems.

An Indiana University School of Medicine researcher has received a $3.8 million three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia using an unreleased drug developed by Eli Lilly and Co. A team led by Dr. Alan Breier, a professor of psychiatry at the IU medical school, will use a drug discovered by Lilly scientists that mimics some of the actions of the hormone estrogen, but without many of the side effects, such as feminization in men and uterine cancer in women. Breier's study is one of nine projects to receive support from a new NIH program called Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules.

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