Dispensed: Why Walgreens is partnering with Microsoft, inside the Loxo-Lilly deal, and controversial young blood startups
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Hope everyone has recovered from the JPM madness! It's been a busy week as usual for the healthcare team, jumping from coverage of tiffs between pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers to keeping tabs on all the initial public offerings whose fates are more precarious in the face of the government shutdown.
Here's what kept us busy this week.
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For starters, I spoke with Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina on Tuesday to talk about his vision for all the partnerships the drugstore's been making with grocery stores, health plans, and now big technology companies including Microsoft.
- Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the US, is up against stiff competition as rivals like CVS Health strike deals and Amazon looms.
- As a defensive move, Walgreens has taken a partnership approach, forging alliances rather than pursuing outright takeovers. On Tuesday, Walgreens reached another such deal with Microsoft. In December, it partnered with Alphabet's life-sciences arm, Verily.
- We spoke with Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina about why the changing power of the consumer was driving his approach to partnerships with grocery stores, health plans, and now tech giants.
The inside story of Eli Lilly's 18-day race to secure an $8 billion deal in time for the 'Super Bowl' of healthcare
- Drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co. first approached the biotech Loxo Oncology about an acquisition on December 20, just weeks before it wanted to announce the agreement at a major industry event.
- Loxo's board of directors thought about soliciting other takeover offers, but didn't.
- Both companies' teams worked through the holiday season to seal the deal, including on Christmas Eve and New Year's Day.
Emma also had the scoop on a big effort to figure out how to pay for a cutting-edge gene therapy on the horizon that has a seriously high price tag.
A revolutionary drug that could treat a rare and devastating disease is prohibitively expensive. But one state has a plan to pay for its potential $5 million price tag.
- A one-time treatment for a devastating rare disease could be paid for with an installment plan as soon as this summer in Massachusetts.
- Novartis's AveXis unit is involved in the discussions. Its gene therapy could cost up to $5 million per treatment. Organizers hope the plan will ensure patients can access a potentially life-changing treatment.
- Business Insider is the first to report on the discussions and the interest from AveXis.
Over on the West Coast, Erin Brodwin spent a big chunk of her week thinking about "young blood," getting the scoop that Ambrosia is now accepting PayPal payments for the $8,000 procedure that includes filling your veins with the blood of young people (young meaning donors between 16 and 25).
A controversial startup that charges $8,000 to fill your veins with young blood now claims to be up and running in 5 cities across the US
- A startup called Ambrosia that charges $8,000 to fill your veins with the blood of young people is now accepting PayPal payments for the procedure online.
- Jesse Karmazin, a Stanford graduate who founded Ambrosia, told Business Insider this week that the company was up and running in five US cities.
- Ambrosia recently completed its first clinical trial designed to assess the benefits of the procedure, but it has yet to publish the results. Karmazin previously told Business Insider the company wanted to open the first clinic in New York City, but that didn't happen.
Unrelatedly, Erin caught up with the CEO of Alkahest, a biotech exploring the use of "young blood" to treat age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
I'm still working through my notes from my interviews last week, so stay tuned for more in the coming weeks. But here are some of the headlines already coming out of those meetings:
- A top Silicon Valley VC firm avoided investing in prescription drugs for a decade. Here's why Andreessen Horowitz is changing its mind.
- A 237-year-old Japanese drug company just combined with a rival halfway around the world. Here's how they're confronting the challenge of merging 2 cultures.
- A top executive at GSK reveals why it's prepared to ditch the brands that helped turn it into a $95 billion powerhouse
As always, feel free to send tips or thoughts on the new Theranos documentary and podcast out next Wednesday to email@example.com, and you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Should be some interesting developments in those deep-dives. Hope you enjoy the three-day weekend!