UnitedHealthcare using financial rewards to encourage diabetics to take care; lower cost — MedCity Weekend Rounds, Dec. 5, 2009

Minneapolis, Minn., insurer UnitedHealthcare is using financial rewards to encourage people with diabetes to take better care – and to save themselves, and eventually their employers and the insurer, a lot of money.

Here are five of the top stories at MedCity News this week:

     ♦   Minneapolis, Minn., insurer UnitedHealthcare is encouraging people with diabetes to take better care – and to save themselves, and eventually their employers and the insurer, a lot of money. The insurer’s Diabetes Health Plan goes beyond traditional wellness programs by giving patients financial rewards for taking routine preventive-care steps aimed at improving  their management of the disease that cost the U.S. economy $175 billion in 2007.

     ♦   Two Ohio House Democrats plan to sponsor a resolution that puts the renewal and expansion of the Ohio Third Frontier program to a public vote during the primary election in May. Third Frontier is the $1.6 billion, 10-year program to develop Ohio’s economy by developing technologies in industries including biomedical, which has received the largest number of grant dollars since the program’s 2002 start. An independent analysis said the program created $6.6 billion in economic impact, 41,300 jobs and a 10-to-1 return on state investments in its first seven years.

     ♦   The National Institutes of Health this week approved the first 13 lines of embryonic stem cells for use by federal researchers, ushering in a new era of research that is both promising and controversial. The move is the first fruit of an executive order by President Barack Obama revoking a ban on using stem cells derived from embryonic sources in federally funded research. Though most of Ohio’s researchers use adult stem cells, the approval likely will broaden stem cell opportunities for all researchers, said Debra Grega, executive director for the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine in Cleveland.

     ♦   The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert for a sterilization device from STERIS Corp., warning that the device has the potential to cause “serious injuries” such as infections to patients. The FDA said it has received reports of malfunctions by STERIS’ System 1 Processor, which is used to sterilize heat-sensitive medical instruments such as endoscopes. “We disagree with the FDA’s recent notice and are working to engage in further dialogue with the agency about this matter,” STERIS said.

     ♦   In this week’s financial news: Kalamazoo, Mich., orthopedics device maker Stryker agreed to pay $525 million in cash to acquire Ascent Healthcare Solutions, the Phoenix, Ariz.-based medical device reprocessor and remanufacturer… Apnex Medical Inc. in St. Paul, Minn., has raised $14 millionto complete clinical trial enrollments for an implantable device that treats sleep apnea… Food and animal safety products company Neogen Corp. in Lansing, Mich., has acquired for a reported $6.5 milliona U.K.-based business that sells 50 test kits for food allergens… AxioMed Spine Corp. in Garfield Heights, Ohio, has raised $6.4 millionof an expected $18.5 million C Series round to continue developing its Freedom lumbar and cervical disc replacements… West Lafayette, Ind., biotech firm Kylin Therapeutics is looking to raise $2 million to help it develop technology that “turns off” certain disease-causing genes… Cleveland Medical Devices Inc. received  Canadian and European regulatory approval to begin selling devices including sleep-apnea and movement-disorder diagnostic tools, which could help the Cleveland, Ohio, company double sales in two years.