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Insulin Pump Pact Boosts Medtronic Division

Aetna Inc. and Medtronic Inc. have embarked on a two-year collaboration to help diabetics adopt insulin pumps. The health insurer, based in Hartford, Conn. will supply 300 fully insured patients with Type 2 diabetes that is uncontrolled. Medtronic, based in Minneapolis but with its insulin pump unit in Northridge, will provide the pumps and patient education, case management and other patient support at the heart of the collaboration. Dr. Francine Kaufman, chief medical officer at Medtronic’s Northridge location, said the deal involves no money between the companies beyond the usual insurance claims for insulin pumps. The payoff for both companies will be data about how the pumps improve health compared to other therapies. “Medtronic and Aetna will evaluate the rate of success in glucose control among participants and determine the impact of the program on overall health outcomes and medical costs, such as reduced ER and hospital stays,” she said. Using claims data, Aetna will identify policy holders who may be good candidates for insulin pumps and, with Medtronic, will contact their doctors about the program. If they decide to use a Medtronic pump, the patient will be enrolled in Medtronic’s Getting2Goal program designed to help simplify insulin pump therapy and provide support during the first six months. Dr. Ed Pezalla, Aetna’s national medical director for pharmacy policy and strategy, said he was looking to work with other companies like Medtronic to improve the health care of policy holders. “The program is another step in creating a sustainable health care system that supports better health outcomes and lower costs for consumers,” he said in a statement. Kaufman expects the collaboration will help identify the people who can most benefit from insulin pumps, a finding that has a direct impact on the company’s Valley operation. “The Northridge facility is the headquarters for the diabetes business of Medtronic and the team who worked on this collaboration works out of this office,” she said. The program is expected to run for two years. After that, “Aetna and Medtronic will examine the impact on both overall health outcomes and medical costs for the program, and then determine the next steps,” Kaufman said. Covering California Covered California, the state’s online health insurance exchange, has sold policies to 198,000 people in Los Angeles County since its launch Oct. 1, beating initial projections by about 12 percent. The agency estimates the total will reach about 200,000 by March 31, which is the deadline for open enrollment in a health plan under the health reform law. Larry Hicks, an information officer at Covered California in Sacramento, said the agency has staged numerous Valley sign-up events in conjunction with labor unions, professional associations, churches, schools and other organizations. Events are scheduled to continue until the deadline. About 85 percent of the people in L.A. County buying insurance on the exchange qualify for government subsidies. Of those, about 71 have signed up for the silver plan, meaning a middle-of-the-market policy in terms of coverage benefits. “That’s in line with the insurers and how they set their marketing and prices,” Hicks said. People can enroll in Covered California plans directly online, or they can go through a certified commercial broker. They can also meet with certified enrollment counselors, who may work for a union, hospital, chamber of commerce, school or trade organization. They can also be professional tax preparers. In a press release, Covered California noted that although people have signed up, that doesn’t mean they have paid premiums, started coverage or accessed care. Those figures will be available in future reporting periods. For now, Hicks said the organization is focused on getting as many people as possible into the system. “There are still a lot of people out there to enroll,” he said. “We aren’t going to jog to the finish line, we’re going to sprint.” Amgen Again The drug development pipeline at Amgen Inc. may have produced another golden egg, minus the cholesterol. The Thousand Oaks company announced last week that evolocumab, an investigational human antibody, successfully reduced cholesterol in a Phase 3 clinical trial. The drug blocked a protein that elevates cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. The study involved 49 people with a genetic condition causing high cholesterol. The patients received a monthly injection of Evolocumab, in addition to their regular medication. While the drug may lower cholesterol, news of its viability sent Amgen’s stock higher. In the two days following the announcement, shares jumped 4 percent. The stock closed March 19 at $126.58. Staff Writer Joel Russell can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or jrussell@sfvbj.com.

Joel Russel
Joel Russel
Joel Russell joined the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2006 as a reporter. He transferred to sister publication San Fernando Valley Business Journal in 2012 as managing editor. Since he assumed the position of editor in 2015, the Business Journal has been recognized four times as the best small-circulation tabloid business publication in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publishers. Previously, he worked as senior editor at Hispanic Business magazine and editor of Business Mexico.
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