Pharma

Morning Read: Walgreens buying Rite Aid, $390M Novartis kickback settlement

Also, Novartis has agreed to settle U.S. kickback allegations for $390 million and nearly 200 groups rally to save AHRQ.

TOP STORY

There will be just two major pharmacy chains left in the U.S., as Walgreens Boots Alliance has agreed to buy competitor Rite Aid. The combined company would own 41 percent of the market; CVS Health holds a 58 percent market share, according to research firm IBISWorld.

Together, Walgreens and Rite Aid operate about 12,800 stores. CVS has more than 7,800, the Wall Street Journal said.

There is some confusion about the value of the deal; Some news outlets, like USA Today, said it was worth $17.2 billion, while the Journal and others pegged the price at $9.4 billion.

What is known is that the big chains have been growing fast and expanding into new areas. CVS famously added “Health” to its name last year after it decided to stop selling tobacco, and is in the process of taking over the pharmacy operations at Target stores.

Walgreens completed the takeover of European chain Boots in 2014, while Rite Aid bought pharmacy benefits manager EnvisionRx this year. Both companies, like CVS, have been adding walk-in clinics in droves. The Wall Street Journal, USA Today

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LIFE SCIENCES

Novartis has agreed to settle U.S. kickback allegations for $390 million, but the Swiss drug-maker still posted a $1.8 billion profit in the third quarter. — Reuters

Nipro is selling its U.S.-based Nipro Diagnostics unit to Chinese company Sinocare for $273 million. — MassDevice

New data should allow Shire to reapply for approval of eye drug lifitegrast next year; the FDA rejected the small-molecule therapy earlier this month. — FierceBiotech

Startup Helius Medical Technologies, which is developing a portable brain stimulation device, has raised $2 million. — Philadelphia Business Journal

The UMass Venture Development Center has secured two grants that will allow it to add a new wet lab. — Boston Business Journal

International pharmaceutical supply chain consortium Rx-360 has named Mark S. Paxton CEO. — PR Newswire

PAYERS-PROVIDERS

SentosaCare has become the largest for-profit operator of nursing homes in New York state despite a long history of safety violations. — ProPublica

A Kaiser Permanente hospital in Oregon drastically cut postsurgical complications in diabetics by having pharmacists manage the patients’ blood sugar. — The Oregonian

Central Health plans on turning University Medical Center’s Brackenridge campus in Austin, Texas, into a “hub of healthy activity” once the site is vacated in 2017. — Community Impact

Anthem Blue Cross must refund $8.3 million to 50,000 members and avoid midyear hikes in consumer out-of-pocket costs under terms of a settlement with California. — Silicon Valley Business Journal

St. Elizabeth’s Healthcare in Kentucky is starting a clinical research institute. — Cincinnati Business Courier

TECHNOLOGY

MedStar Health in the Washington-Baltimore region will work with the American Medical Association on improving EHR usability. — Baltimore Business Journal

The latest entry in the crowded field of fitness trackers is from Garmin and includes 24/7 heart-rate monitoring. — Business Wire

POLITICS

Nearly 200 medical societies, health systems and industry groups are calling on Congress not to defund the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. — Healthcare IT News

Insurance policies sold on Affordable Care Act exchanges often are missing in-network specialists. — NPR

The American Hospital Association is none too pleased with Medicare cuts in the federal budget deal reached late Monday night. — American Hospital Association

The American Academy of Family Physicians is making it easy for family practitioners to complain about Meaningful Use Stage 3 to their congressional representatives. — Healthcare IT News

A LITTLE BIT EXTRA

A medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, California, is offering free potency testing this Friday, on what tester Sage Analytics is calling “Trip or Treat Day.” — PR Newswire

Photo: Flickr user Jeremy Brooks