Health Care Checkup: MRIGlobal goes after HPV, Sigma-Aldrich sale approved

The Health Care Checkup is a weekly rundown of the state’s top health care headlines.

Sigma-Aldrich makes its headquarters in St. Louis and was acquired for $17 by German pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA in September 2014. | Courtesy of Sigma-Aldrich
Sigma-Aldrich’s $17 billion sale to German pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA got the green light from shareholders. | Courtesy of Sigma-Aldrich

Checking the Pulse

MRIGlobal lands $3 million HPV vaccine contract

MRIGlobal will join the fight against the nation’s most common sexually transmitted infection with help from the National Cancer Institute. NCI awarded Kansas City-based MRIGlobal, formerly known as the Midwest Research Institute, a $3 million contract to develop a vaccine to treat the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV; of those, about 360,000 people will develop genital warts from the condition and about 10,000 women will develop cervical cancer. Currently, about 30 percent of HPV strains are left untreated by the two vaccines available; the new vaccine is intended to fill that void.

“It will contribute to the reduction of cancer, improved cancer survival rates and enable a better quality of life for cancer patients. It can have a significant impact on global health,” MRIGlobal CEO Tom Sack said in a statement.

Sigma-Aldrich sale approved by shareholders

The sale of chemical supplier Sigma-Aldrich to German pharmaceutical company Merck now has a full green light after Sigma shareholders approved the sale in their most recent meeting. The deal, announced in September, will cost Merck $17 billion and is expected to close in mid-2015.

One element of the deal remains up in the air: The retention of Sigma-Aldrich executives. In the same meeting, Sigma’s shareholders approved “golden parachute” packages in the event the company’s top employees were laid off by Merck in the wake of the acquisition. President and CEO Rakesh Sachdev would receive a package that, if all contingencies were met, would total $33.8 million; in all, five executives would receive layoff compensation totaling $63.2 million. Merck has yet to announce its decision regarding Sigma-Aldrich’s executives and their future with the company.

Nueterra buys hospital in Fulton

Nueterra, a health care management company based in Leawood, Kan., partnered with University of Missouri Health Care to purchase Callaway Community Hospital in Fulton. The 37-bed hospital sold for $6 million, resulting in a net loss of about $300,000 for previous owner SunLink Health Systems. The deal is expected to close Dec. 31.

The partnership will result in Nueterra owning 65 percent of the hospital. University of Missouri Health Care will own the other 35 percent and provide debt guarantees of approximately $2.75 million. Together, the partners said in a statement they intend to renovate and modernize the hospital inside and out.

Number of the Week: $19,100

The average amount families in a recent survey conducted by Children’s Mercy spent on tests seeking a diagnosis for children affected by neurologic and developmental disorders. Additionally, getting to a diagnosis was found to take an average of six and a half years. Children’s Mercy’s Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine recently published a study in the journal Science Translational Medicine showing genome analysis tests could bring significant reductions in both those figures for children and infants.

Quote of the Week

“In some cases this could make it difficult for patients to afford and stay on medications.”

Dan Mendelson, CEO of consulting firm Avalere Health, in a written statement. Avalere recently released two studies showing Medicare beneficiaries and other patients are likely to pay significantly more out of pocket next year for “specialty drugs” to treat complex and chronic ailments such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The studies find more than half of patients on “bronze” health care plans will have to pay 30 percent of drug costs or more, up from 38 percent this year. Forty-one percent of patients on “silver” plans will require the same amount, up from 20 percent this year.

Tweet of the Week

Midwest Women’s Healthcare Specialists settled a class-action lawsuit from more than 1,500 women whose medical records were left in a dumpster during a construction project and subsequently blew in the wind only to be found scattered near Research Medical Center. The women’s medical practice agreed to set up a $400,000 fund for victims in the case as well as two years of free credit monitoring in case sensitive financial information fell into the wrong hands. However, the company isn’t out of the woods yet; the Department of Health and Human Services is investigating whether the incident resulted in HIPAA violations, in which case millions more in penalties could be on the way.

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