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Eli Lilly and Co.’s highly anticipated cholesterol drug passed a “futility analysis,” allowing it to complete a critical Phase 3 study in patients, according to Reuters. The drug, called evacetrapib, is designed to boost "good" HDL cholesterol while lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol. An independent panel of scientific advisers recommended that the clinical trial of the drug continue after looking at interim data from the study of more than 12,000 patients. Indianapolis-based Lilly said it expects to complete clinical trials in 2016. A similar treatment from Pfizer Inc. called torcetrapib was scrapped in 2006 after safety problems arose, including deaths associated with the medicine. Pfizer had hoped its drug would capture annual sales of $10 billion. The failure of torcetrapib has dampened some of the earlier excitement about such drugs, which work by blocking a protein called CETP. But Lilly’s drug has shown fewer side effects, keeping investors interested in it. Few analysts, however, have yet included estimates of the drug’s sales in their financial forecasts for Lilly. The company needs new products to replace lost revenue from blockbusters whose patents have expired. Loss of sales from Cymbalta and Evista caused Lilly's profits to plunge 18 percent in the second quarter.

UnitedHealthcare paid out nearly $2.7 million in bonus payments to nearly 50 Indiana health care providers who scored high in quality in the Minnesota-based health insurers’ Medicare Advantage plans. The payments are another example of how health insurers are shifting toward payments based on patient outcomes, instead of payments based solely on volume of services provided. UnitedHealthcare awarded the bonuses under a program it calls PATH Excellence in Patient Service Awards. Nationwide, more than 4,000 health care providers received more than $54 million in bonus payments. The PATH program annually rewards physicians who meet certain performance-based criteria, including achieving or exceeding compliance targets such as the percentage of patients receiving breast cancer or colorectal cancer screenings and the percentage of members who adhere to their medications to help manage their diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol. Like the federal Medicare program and Indianapolis-based Anthem Inc., UnitedHealthcare is rapidly growing the amount of money it pays providers via “pay-for-value” contracts that hinge at least in part on patient outcomes. UnitedHealthcare’s total payments to physicians and hospitals that are tied to value-based arrangements have nearly tripled in the last three years, to $38 billion. By the end of 2018, UnitedHealthcare expects that figure to reach $65 billion.

Anthem Inc. announced July 24 that it will spend $48.4 billion in cash and stock, and assume $5.8 billion in debt, to acquire Connecticut-based Cigna Corp. The combination of the two health insurance giants, which followed a long and stormy courtship, is the largest deal in the history of the industry, and the largest acquisition ever by an Indiana-based company. Anthem said it will remain headquartered in Indianapolis. The company will have more than $115 billion in revenue, will include more than 53 million Americans in its health plans, and will have more than $5 billion in annual profits. The addition of Connecticut-based Cigna's 37,000 employees will boost Anthem's work force to 89,000, including 5,000 in Indiana. Anthem CEO Joe Swedish will be chairman and CEO of the combined company. Cigna CEO David Cordani will be president and chief operating officer. Cordani also will be one of five Cigna representatives on the combined company’s board, with nine seats going to Anthem representatives. Anthem and Cigna said they expect their deal to take a year to close, as they seek regulatory approval from federal and state authorities, as well as from Cigna shareholders. Investors and analysts expect antitrust authorities to closely scrutinize the deal.

Indianapolis-based Healthiest Employers LLC has received $1.5 million from angel investors and Elevate Ventures. Elevate, which chipped in $500,000, works with the state-funded Indiana Economic Development Corp. to make investments in private companies through the Indiana 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. Healthiest Employers plans to use the funds to help drive marketing and sales of Springbuk, an application that gives companies a comprehensive look at medical claims and other health data for their employees. “As employers look to control health care costs, Springbuk is well-positioned to serve the employer and benefits broker who want an actionable way to improve health," Elevate CEO Chris LaMothe said in a prepared release. Founded in 2009, Healthiest Employers has 26 employees.

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