It’s a Big Pharma faceoff as Lipitor comes off patent (Morning Read)

Current medical news from today, including Pfizer files patent lawsuit against Merck, GoogleVentures invests in DNAnexus, and Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee call for investigations of medical devices.

Current medical news and unique business news for anyone who cares about healthcare.

In one corner we have Pfizer, in the other, Merck. In the most recent battle of Big Pharma, Pfizer has filed a patent lawsuit to block Merck from selling a pill that combines Merck’s drug Zelia with a generic version of Pfizer’s blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor, which comes off patent in November. Pfizer will still have a patent on Lipitor’s crystalline structure that doesn’t expire for a few more years, which the company cites in its lawsuit.

Google puts some eggs in the genomics basket. Google Ventures led a $15 million venture round for DNAnexus, a startup company that hosts a massive database of genomics data being gathered by various sequencing companies.

Dems call for medical device investigations. Democrats from the Energy and Commerce Committee have urged Republican leaders to hold investigative hearings on metal-on-metal hip implants and brain stents to clear clogged arteries, both of which have been under fire for causing harm in patients. Democrats say this would shed light on the regulatory process for medical devices.

Expert panels less than neutral. Who exactly sits on these “expert panels,” like the one that recently recommended men not regularly undergo PSA screening? Researchers looked at 14 published guidelines and found that more than half of the panel members who wrote the guidelines had conflicts of interest due to financial ties to the industry.

How will kids’ care fare? There’s big money in the world of children’s hospital, but how will they fare amid budget cuts? Kaiser Health takes in in-depth look at “The Big Money World of Kids Care” in a three-part series that’s worth a read.

Decoding Black Death. Using DNA taken from the teeth of medieval Black Death victims, scientists have figured out the entire genetic code of the rodent-infecting bacterium. The surprise? There wasn’t any genetic feature that could explain the plague. Most likely, they say, the disease struck humans for when Europe was facing poor living conditions, poor crop production and a cooling climate.