J&J ordered to pay $US4.69 billion to 22 women

Johnson & Johnson on 12 July was ordered to pay $US4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who had claimed that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

A jury in a Missouri circuit court awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.

Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Johnson’s Baby Powder, said it was “deeply disappointed” in the verdict and planned to appeal.

The company is facing more than 9,000 plaintiffs in cases involving body powders with talc, according to a regulatory document filed this northern-hemisphere spring.

After a six-week trial, the jury in St Louis deliberated over the compensatory damages for eight hours but decided on the punitive damages in roughly 45 minutes.

Six of the women have died and one of the plaintiffs is undergoing chemotherapy and was too ill to attend the court.

It was alleged Johnson & Johnson had spent 40 years covering up evidence of asbestos in some of its talcum-based products and should mark those products with warning labels or focus on powders made with cornstarch.

The punitive damages are among the largest ever awarded in

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By | July 14th, 2018|Business|

Pfizer backs off 40 drug-price hikes after Trump offensive

Pharmaceutical-drugs behemoth Pfizer has backed off planned price increases for 40 products after pressure from United States president, Mr Donald Trump, during what has been described as “extensive talks”.

Pfizer backed away from the proposed 1-July increases after its chief executive, Mr Ian Read, met with Mr Trump.

Mr Trump wants to leave drug prices at their current levels until the end of the year, when he plans to curb high drug prices so as to provide more-affordable access to needed medicines.

He said in a tweet: “We applaud Pfizer for its decision and hope other companies do the same”.

The president’s attack on Pfizer is the latest instance of him using his ‘bully pulpit’ to challenge big US companies, including this one (Pfizer) that has supported him.

Commentators in the US say Pfizer’s sudden, last-minute reversal shows just how political an issue drug prices have become, even among Republicans, who have long supported drug manufacturers, and why the firms have taken steps to ward off punitive actions by limiting the frequency and magnitude of their price increases.

By | July 14th, 2018|Business|

Novartis is planning to spin off Alcon into a separately traded stand-alone company

The split, which is subject to general market conditions, tax rulings, shareholder approval and board of directors endorsement, will allow both companies to “focus fully on their respective growth strategies,” according to a Novartis press release.

The ophthalmology pharmaceuticals business will continue to be part of Novartis, while Alcon will focus on surgical and vision care.

In addition, Novartis said it will initiate a share buyback of up to $5 billion by the end of 2019.

“Our strategic review examined all options for Alcon ranging from retention, sale, IPO to spinoff. The review concluded that a spinoff would be in the best interests of Novartis shareholders, and the board of directors intends to seek shareholder approval for a spinoff at the 2019 annual general meeting,” Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt said in the release.

Mike Ball will become chairman-designate of Alcon, while David Endicott will be promoted to Alcon CEO, according to the release. Both appointments will become effective on 1 July.

“This promises to be the beginning of an exciting new chapter for everyone associated with Alcon,” Mr Ball said in the release. “The planned spinoff will be key to strengthening our leadership in the large, attractive and growing global eye-care-devices market.”

If all approvals are secured, the spinoff would be completed in the first half of 2019. The company would

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By | July 1st, 2018|Business|

Amazon secures foothold in US pharmacy retailing

Amazon has announced it is buying online retail pharmaceutical retailer PillPack for an undisclosed price.

PillPack has a staff of 1,000 and is not a major player in the US pharmacy industry, bringing in about $US100 million in revenue in 2017, according to the company.

The company, which started in 2013, distributes pills in easy-to-use packages designed for consumers with chronic conditions and multiple prescriptions. It sorts prescriptions by the dose and includes a label with a picture of each pill and directions on how it should be taken.

Anxiety over what Amazon might do in health care has unsettled the industry, with the company’s interest in drugs considered a factor in a wave of recently proposed mergers, including CVS’s acquisition of Aetna and a union between the health insurer Cigna and Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefit manager.

Amazon’s entry could make it easier for some of those deals to get approval from regulators, by adding a new competitor.

When Amazon announced on 28 June that it was buying PillPack, the news immediately shook the industry. Shares of Walgreens and Rite Aid tumbled more than 9 per cent, while CVS Health dropped 6.6 per cent.

Even as Americans have shifted their buying habits online, prescription drugs have remained a stubbornly bricks-and-mortar purchase. About 90 per cent of all

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By | July 1st, 2018|Business|

Specsavers tops $1bn in annual sales

Specsavers’ optometry/optical dispensing and audiology stores sales in Australia and New Zealand for the first time topped $1 billion during the company’s financial year ended 31 February 2018.

The figure for Australia was $1,013 million (£569.5 million), while New Zealand had sales of $130 million (£73 million), to give a total of $1,143 million (£642 million) for ANZ.

As at 31 February, there were 324 optical and 18 audiology stores in Australia to give mean average annual sales of $2.96 million per store, whereas in New Zealand the average for the 52 stores was $A2.5 million.

In the United Kingdom market, Specsavers had sales of £1,392 million ($2379 million), while in its seven other markets in Europe the company had sales totalling £578 million ($1,029).

Total revenue during 2017-18 for the Specsavers group increased by 7 per cent to £2.61 billion through sales of 20.5 million spectacle frames, 500 million contact lenses and 337,770 hearing aids.

The company has 2,800 joint-venture partners operating 1,978 optical stores and hearing centres. There are 32,500 employees.

Commenting on the 2017-18 year, co-founder Mr Doug Perkins said: “We are in the midst of a decade when eye health is transforming at unprecedented speed. The disruptive changes present an opportunity for us to support ways in which ophthalmologists and optometrists can

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By | June 24th, 2018|Business|

Full-line US department stores to decline 18-20% by 2023

There are currently just under 6,000 full-line department stores in the United States but a report by Coresight Research predicts that number will decline by 1,100 to 1,200 by 2023 due to store closings, a drop of about 18 per cent to 20 per cent.

The report also noted that some department store companies, such as Macy’s, are placing more emphasis on the quality of the shopping experience, which may indicate that the department store sector will turn its focus to the “better-invested, higher-quality and probably smaller stores in higher-traffic locations in the next few years.”

By | June 24th, 2018|Business|

Sceats Group joining Sunshades Eyewear

The Jono Hennessy Group, headed by Jonathan and Louise Sceats, is joining Sunshades Eyewear on 1 July.

The business partnership is the culmination of a personal and professional friendship that was started by Sunshades Eyewear founder, Betty Lasse, and Jonathan (Jono) Hennessy Sceats over 30 years ago.

“Betty Lasse was my first account and she was so supportive; my designs at the time were a totally new look and not receiving much interest. However, Betty sold them well at her pharmacy at Bondi Beach, and Vogue did a story, so it was all then accepted,” Jonathan Sceats said.

The partnership will continue to enable Jonathan and his wife Louise to focus on design and marketing and to continue to evolve their boutique brands.

Sunshades Eyewear will provide back-end support across merchandise planning, finance, and supply-chain management. Sales of the brands Jono Hennessy, Carter Bond and Zeffer will continue to be managed by the Jono Hennessy Group.


Eye Candy Optics appoints two

Eye Candy Optics has appointed Sydney-based Sarah Huve as New South Wales and ACT sales representative and Shila Roshini as sales representative for Queensland.

Sarah has a sales background and years of experience in eyewear sales specifically, most recently at Safilo Australia.

Shila is an optometrist with sales experience at Johnson and Johnson Vision Care.


By | June 3rd, 2018|Business|

Novartis’ top legal counsel quits over payments to Trump lawyer’s private company

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis on 16 May announced the retirement of its group general legal counsel, Mr Felix Ehrat, as he apologised for payments made by the company to United States President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Mr Michael Cohen.

The announcement came after Novartis was dragged into the scandal over Mr Cohen’s payment of $US130,000 to US adult film actor Ms ‘Stormy’ Daniels just days before the 2016 presidential election.

On 9 May, Novartis said it had signed a one-year contract for $US100,000 a month with Mr Cohen’s firm in February 2017, seeking advice on the new Trump administration’s public health policy.

Following a meeting with Mr Cohen, the company changed its mind, although Novartis was contractually obliged to pay him the full $1.2 million.

US special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the payments as a strand of his wider investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and allegations of collusion and obstruction of justice by the Trump campaign.

Mr Trump originally denied having an affair with Ms Daniels, who goes by her stage name rather than her real name of Stephanie Clifford, more than a decade ago. But one of the newest members of Mr Trump’s legal team, former federal prosecutor and New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, has

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By | May 20th, 2018|Business|

Chain tops consumer survey of optometrists

Eyecare Plus has taken top spot in Canstar Blue’s 2018 customer satisfaction ratings for optometrists, recording five stars in most research categories, including service and advice, range of products and after-sale service.

The report on the survey said 14% of adults admitted that they get their eyes tested less frequently than every two years with another check-up; the majority of respondents said they get their eyes checked every one to two years (60%), while 22% do so every six to 12 months and 3% visit their optometrist every six months, or more frequently.

Sixty-three per cent of Australians said they always visit the same optometrist, with good customer service and support the most common reason for doing so, well ahead of convenience and price.

The report said:

  • Eyecare Plus was the only chain to score five stars for overall satisfaction, while also earning top marks in most other research areas.
  • Budget Eyewear, OPSM, Optical Superstore and Specsavers all achieved four stars overall, with Optical Superstore standing out with five stars for service and advice and value for money.
  • Big W Optical and Laubman & Pank both received just three stars overall, with a mix of four and three stars across the board.

Additional information: www.canstarblue.com.au/health-beauty/optometrist/.

By | May 20th, 2018|Business|

Britain’s Marks and Spencer enters optical retail

 British retail giant Marks and Spencer is to trial optician practices in five of its stores, Optician magazine reports.

The in-store concessions will be run by Galaxy Optical and branded as M&S Opticians.

The five locations are: Bolton, York, Derby, Manchester and London’s Westfield White City.

A spokesperson for Marks and Spencer said: “As part of our transformation plan we’re adapting our UK store estate to better appeal to our existing customers and attract new ones.

“One way we’re repositioning space is welcoming concessions into M&S stores. We’re already running a trial with Wasabi in our Foodhalls and now we’re extending this program with M&S Opticians.

“Working with an expert partner, Galaxy Optician Services, we’ll be carefully monitoring the trial.”

Concessions are scheduled for opening in the northern summer.

By | May 20th, 2018|Business|