Please say you’re joking…please

Apologies to Luke Bryan (or maybe Luke Bryan should apologize to us?), but after you read this you’ll be less likely to think that “Most People Are Good.” Accenture recently released survey results from 912 employees of provider and payer organizations in the US and Canada. They found 18% of respondents would be willing to sell confidential data to unauthorized parties for as little as $500 to $1,000. What the…? Remember, these are employees of provider and payer organizations. 21% said they keep their user name and password written down next to their computer. C’mon Man. It gets worse when we move from hypothetical to reality where “24% of respondents said they know of someone in their organization who has sold their credentials or access to an unauthorized outsider.” To the 18% – “you’re just a bad person, all the way through to your core.”

Growing, growing, relevant

You know what grew at almost the same rate (up ~24%) as the DJIA in 2017? The number of ACOs operating in the US. For the uninitiated, “Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are groups of health care providers, who come together to give coordinated care to Medicare patients. When an ACO succeeds in delivering high-quality care and spending health care dollars more wisely, it shares the savings it achieves for the Medicare program.” There will be 18% more ACOs in 2018, than in 2017. There are 5 different ACO models and according to a report by IQVIA (form required), there are “1,000 federal, commercial and Medicaid ACOs, representing an estimated 28M beneficiaries.” The report lists the top 30 ACOs as well as the top ACOs in each of the 5 models. Not sure, but ~9% of the US population starts to raise an eyebrow or one.

Good question, bad optics

A report released by Goldman Sachs asks a question that the biotech industry has been starting to grapple with: “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” It’s a fair question, and an easy answer: no. The GS analysts use another GS, Gilead Sciences, as a case study to explain this. A few years ago Gilead came out with their Hepatitis C cure, and US sales of that peaked in 2015 at about $12.5B. This year it’s projected to make less than $4B in the US. So the obvious conclusion is that curing patients with “one-shot” gene therapies makes less money over time than chronic therapies, makes sense. But jeeeeeeez when you take off your impartial industry analyst hat and think about how this kind of report looks to non-industry people… it’s just bad optics.

Baysanto? Monsantayer?

Whatever they end up calling themselves, Bayer and Monsanto have finally crossed the last big regulatory hurdle in the way of their proposed merger. The US Department of Justice gave Bayer permission to go through with the $62.5B deal on Tuesday. It’s one of the largest mergers on record (list of those here), and the new company will have control of over 25% of the world’s seeds and pesticides. Get ready for a future where Mbayto branded trees litter the landscape. The companies claim that the merger will allow them to increase spending on R&D, but Business Insider reports that they’ll only really be spending about $500M more than when they were separate. With that much of the market cornered there’s probably a better reason the deal will benefit the companies…

Researcher apparently skipped ethics classes

William Halford, a researcher affiliated with Southern Illinois University and formerly with Rational Vaccines, is under investigation for unauthorized injections of an experimental herpes vaccine into human subjects. A few things to know. (1) He’s dead now (which I guess makes him formerly affiliated with lots of things). (2) The FDA’s criminal investigation is looking for accomplices who may have assisted in Halford’s “research” efforts. And (3), Halford personally administered injections into subjects in a room at the Holiday Inn Express. The University denies any knowledge of the research. No way? He didn’t go through the proper channels? Rational Vaccines has also denied any knowledge and has since taken down their website (not a good look) while their work continues. Pro tip: Don’t fall for the ol’ injection-in-a-hotel-room trick. It’s almost never legit.

It’s good to be the king (of retail)

You can’t turn on the telly (shout out to the UK), open an industry email (like this one), or read Süddeutsche Zeitung (wir hören Sie, Deutschland) without someone talking about Wal-Mart, Amazon, or Apple doing something with healthcare. And, this is no different. Sorry. That said, turns out Wal-Mart doesn’t want to be left in the healthcare dust. This week it was reported they are in talks to buy PillPack, an online pharmacy and Humana. Buying Humana comes with a built-in market for Wal-Mart’s pharmacy businesses. If you remember, Aetna once courted Humana, but the US squashed the deal on Medicare monopoly concerns. Wal-Mart has a huge brand, lots of customers, a growing home-delivery service, and a market cap north of $250B so hold on. Big things are coming. Because it’s good to be the king.

Apple, at it again

Backed by the “who’s who” of US hospitals, Apple recently launched the Apple Health Records feature, which will aggregate existing patient-generated data in a user’s health app with data from their EHR. For a screen shot of the app/feature go here. With names like Stanford, Duke, and Vanderbilt already signed on, you might think we’re talking about your busted NCAA bracket. We’re not. The Apple “feature” has been in beta for a bit and Dr. Paul Testa of NYU has used it to enable 35 ER doctors, through Apple Watch’s push notifications, to request vital lab results be delivered so they see the results and respond quickly to patient needs. Pretty Star Trek-ish. While Apple has plans to go where no one has gone before, this just might be their one shining moment. RIP the NCAA tournament.