News

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|