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As Amgen Revenues Soar So Does Entire Biotech Group

Thousand Oaks-based Amgen helped push the biotech industry to record revenues this past year. For the first time, total industry revenues exceeded $60 billion, according to a report by Ernst & Young. Sales rose by a total of 18 percent to reach $63.1 billion, and the industry’s net loss fell to $4.3 billion. Amgen, which is the largest biotechnology company in the world, reported $12.4 billion in sales last year, which is an 18 percent increase from the year before. “Since our first report 20 years ago, we’ve seen historic scientific advances and dramatic changes in market conditions combine to produce a rapidly maturing industry,” said Donn Szaro, who heads Ernst & Young’s global biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors, in a news release. “Companies from around the globe are pioneering new technologies, platforms, industry segments and business models.” Amgen also reported earlier this month that an exploratory cancer drug stops the progression of colorectal cancer in patients who have seen the cancer spread. The drug, panitumumab, was given to patients when chemotherapy didn’t work, and was found to be better than simply supportive care. Thirty six percent of the patients reported that the cancer was controlled, compared to 10 percent with supportive care. Amgen developed the drug with Abgenix, a company that it purchased for $2.2 billion. WellPoint Sued Ten Californians filed lawsuits against WellPoint Inc. The suits claim that the company violated a law banning what is called “post-claim underwriting,” by canceling members’ policies after they made claims. WellPoint is the parent company of Blue Cross of California. The lawsuits were filed in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties, and they claim that WellPoint retroactively reviewed and subsequently rescinded policies in order to avoid paying claims. The California Department of Managed Health Care has opened an investigation into retroactive terminations, and has asked for copies of the WellPoint lawsuits. Amazon Exec to Speak Paul Misener, vice president for global public policy for Amazon.com Inc., will speak to Digital Insight’s financial institution clients during the company’s national conference this week in Orlando. Misener will focus on strategies for being successful in the on-demand marketplace. The e-commerce and electronic banking sector, Misener said, is equal parts opportunity and danger. Digital Insight’s services include consumer and business online banking, online lending, electronic bill payment, account transfers and other services. Digital Insight is planning to conduct a Live Usability Study at its national conference to show how usability testing can quickly point out the strengths and weaknesses of user experiences in online banking. Conference attendees can either watch or participate in the study. Semtech CEO Punches In Mohan R. Maheswaran officially began his tenure as CEO of Semtech Inc., a Camarillo-based semiconductor manufacturer. He was announced as the replacement for interim chief executive John D. Poe in Februrary. The company said that Maheswaran received 100,000 shares of stock, options to buy 250,000 more at a certain price ceiling and performance-based options to buy half a million more shares at the same price. Marheswaran has worked in the semiconductor business for 20 years. He was executive vice president and general manager of Intersil Corp. before joining Semtech. Purchase Hits Earnings Iris International saw its share price fall about 10 percent after announcing that it would purchase Leucadia Technologies. The purchase, the company said, will likely reduce its earnings by about $0.06 per share. Iris now expects earnings of $0.45 per share on revenue between $72 million and $76 million. Last week the company announced it was purchasing Leucadia, a molecular diagnostics company for $10.1 million. Iris will pay $3.1 million in cash and $7 million in the company’s stock as it moves Leucadia into its new molecular diagnostic division. Iris plans to increase spending to 13 percent of revenue because of the cost. Interest in Health Net Plan Health Net’s new plan for people who want to see doctors either in Mexico or the United States is generating more interest than the company initially expected. Ana Andrade, vice president of Latino programs for Health Net of California, said the company got about 4,000 phone calls about the new plan in the first week after its launch. Mexi-plan is sold directly to individuals and families rather than through employers. The company has previously offered similar coverage through employers, but many uninsured Latinos living in California can’t get insurance through employers because they work for small businesses or are self-employed. Andrade said Health Net worked with the Mexican consulate to organize a press conference that generated initial interest in the plan, as did a program on Univision that dealt with health care and featured Mexi-plan shortly after its launch in mid-March. “I view Mexi-plan as a private/public sector collaboration to address the millions of Latinos without health insurance,” Andrade said. The plan actually began as a collaboration between the company and the consulate, and focus groups found that over half a million people travel to Tijuana every year for their health care needs. The cost of the plan will be abut $75 per month for individuals and about $300 for a family. Doctor visits in the United States cost $15, and generic drugs require a $5 co-payment. The plan covers hospital visits at 75 percent. In Mexico, members pay $5 for an office visit and $5 for generic drugs, and hospital visits are covered at 90 percent. Health Net worked with Sistemas Medicos Nacionales, which is the only Mexican health plan licensed by the state of California, in order to provide a high level of care.

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