Company news

October 3, 2011

Looks like Roche Diagnostics Corp. is finally getting clear of its troubles at the FDA. On Thursday, Switzerland-based Roche announced it won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a new test strip that works with its Accu-Chek Aviva blood glucose monitors. Roche developed the new strip because its previous version of test strips used an enzyme that, in rare cases, could give a falsely high blood sugar reading. A falsely high reading, if acted upon with a correspondingly high dose of insulin, could be harmful or even fatal to some patients. The concerns of the FDA have kept Roche Diagnostics, which maintains its U.S. headquarters in Indianapolis, from getting new blood glucose monitor products approved in the United States, costing Roche market share here. For example, its Aviva Nano meter, which has sold well in Europe, has never hit the market in the United States. “This clearance is a significant milestone for our organization—one that will position us well for the clearance of other products in our pipeline," said Daniel O’Day, chief operating officer of Roche Diagnostics.

After trudging through nearly three years of soft demand, the Warsaw-based makers of orthopedic hip and knee implants—Zimmer, Biomet and DePuy—are unlikely to see a worldwide recovery before the end of 2012, according to a new report from Leerink Swann & Co. Analysts Rick Wise and Richard Newitter think the debt issues in Europe, the uncertain economy in the United States, and global economic pressures will lead many patients to continue to defer their hip or knee surgeries. “Looking out over the next 12-18 months, we are inclined to take a more cautious view regarding a possible growth rebound in large joint procedure volumes,” the analysts wrote. They predict a shrinkage in those surgeries in the third quarter of 0.2 percent and then modest fourth-quarter growth of 1.2 percent.

If this was meant to boost the stock price, it isn’t working. Since launching a $100 million share repurchase program in May, Carmel-based CNO Financial Group Inc. has purchased nearly 8.8 million common shares for a total of $55.7 million, the company announced last week. Also, for every dollar CNO spends buying its own stock, it also has to spend a dollar paying down its bank loans. But since the life and health insurer launched the repurchase program on May 16, CNO’s share price has fallen 29 percent, closing Friday at $5.41. Over the same time period, the broad Russell 3000 index has fallen 17 percent.