Company news

September 26, 2011

Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc. caught the attention of employers and health benefits brokers with its agreement to buy a stake in Bloom Health, a private health-insurance exchange that would compete for employers with the state-run marketplaces set to open in 2014 as part of the health reform overhaul. According to Bloomberg News, WellPoint and two not-for-profit health insurers will acquire a 78-percent stake in Minneapolis-based Bloom. It is an online marketplace offering a variety of health plans to about 20,000 workers at almost 50 companies. WellPoint officials think a private exchange could offer more consistency for multi-state employers than the state-run exchanges. Under the Bloom model, companies pay employees a fixed amount to cover a portion of their health-care coverage and workers provide the rest based on the plans they select. The idea of the private health-care exchange and its defined contribution model is similar to the trend in retirement benefits in which employers have been abandoning defined benefit pension plans for the relative financial safety of a 401(k) that allows companies to control how much they spend.

With its bestseller Zyprexa losing patent protection next month, Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. is trying to wring every dollar it can out of its other products, including its $2.2 billion-a-year lung cancer drug Alimta. And Lilly got some good news on that front Monday. A committee at the European Medicines Agency issued a positive opinion for the use of Alimta as a "continuation" maintenance therapy, Lilly announced. That makes market approval by the European Commission more likely. Continuation maintenance approval could mean significantly more dollars for Lilly. It would allow doctors to treat lung cancer patients with Alimta during initial treatment and for numerous months afterward to keep the disease in check. Alimta already was approved as a maintenance drug, but only for use after initial treatment of the disease with other drugs. Receiving approval as a maintenance therapy, which Alimta won back in 2009, helped sales soar 66 percent since then. Alimta sales totaled $1.2 billion worldwide in the first half of 2011. According to Lilly, no chemotherapy is currently approved as a continuation maintenance drug. Alimta is designed to treat patients with non-small cell lung cancer who have a certain tumor type called nonsquamous.

The Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology gave $450,000 to Dr. Bryan Schneider, a physician-researcher at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Schneider will use the three-year grant to study the neuropathy that some chemotherapy patients develop in hopes of eventually developing treatments to prevent it. Schneider has received three previous awards from the foundation.

Community Health Network opened a Community Spine Center in Greenwood, similar to the original spine center at Community North Hospital in Castleton. The south-side center will be led by Dr. Joshua Salyer, a graduate of Midwestern University-Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine.