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Medical Center Gives Nonprofits Healthy Boost

Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center awarded $250,000 in community grant funding to 27 San Fernando Valley nonprofits last month. The recipients are organizations focused on community health. The organizations include Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando Valley in Pacoima; Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission in Sun Valley; and Meeting Each Need with Dignity, or MEND, also in Pacoima. The Boys & Girls Club will use the money toward its programs and services for low-income youth, while Hope of the Valley plans to utilize the funds to support its new Recuperative Care Center in Mission Hills. MEND will ramp up its chronic disease management program for low-income, uninsured Latinos in the Valley. Kaiser has awarded grants through its Community Benefit program for 70 years now, and this year alone it has given more than $450,000 to Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita Valley and San Fernando Valley organizations. Kaiser focuses on three areas when deciding what nonprofit, government entity or academic institution to fund – healthy people, which involves bringing health care to low-income individuals; healthy environment, to create safe communities; and sharing knowledge, namely medical information. Kaiser is obligated by law to contribute to the community, which it does through this program. To be a tax-exempt nonprofit, the Internal Revenue Service requires organizations to give back to their communities in return for not paying federal income taxes. “As part of our mission and our nonprofit status, Kaiser Permanente is required by both state and federal laws to provide grants and support to partner organizations to help improve the health of the communities we serve,” said Kaiser in a statement to the Business Journal. “The Community Benefit program is central to our mission of investing in the local communities and meeting critical care gaps – specifically for those who are the most vulnerable to health inadequacies.” Diabetes Study Last month, Camarillo’s REMD Biotherapeutics Inc. began enrolling patients with Type 2 diabetes in its phase 2 clinical study of its drug REMD-477. REMD-477 is a human antibody that attaches to and blocks glucagon receptors, which trigger the liver and kidneys to produce glucose. Higher levels of the glucagon hormone are associated with diabetes; thus lowering glucagon function should aid in diabetes control. The study will evaluate REMD-477’s safety and tolerability in about 72 diabetics by analyzing how patients react to dosing and frequency changes. The diabetes drug was originally developed and tested by Thousand Oaks biotech Amgen Inc., but was later shelved prior to embarking on a phase 2 clinical study. Then in 2011, Amgen scientists Dr. Hai Yan and Tom Boone, two of the original creators of REMD-477, licensed the compound from Amgen and co-founded REMD Bio. Less than six months later, the duo provided sufficient evidence for the Food and Drug Administration to lift the clinical hold on REMD-477. From there, REMD Bio joined forces with its Beijing-based subsidiary, Cosci-REMD, which provided $26 million in venture capital to develop the drug. “The promising preclinical data combined with available phase 1 data from healthy volunteers using REMD-477 opens up a brand new therapeutic chapter in the field of diabetes,” Dr. Roger Unger, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said in a statement. Amgen’s Repatha Pharmacy operator and health care company CVS Health has added Repatha, Amgen’s cholesterol-lowering medication, to its list of covered drugs for private insurance plans. Approved by the FDA on Aug. 27, Repatha lowers LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol by blocking PCSK9 proteins that hinder the liver from metabolizing cholesterol efficiently. Repatha was chosen by CVS over a competing PCSK9 inhibitor called Praluent made by Paris’ Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. in New York. Repatha and Praluent are considered stronger than typical statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, such Pfizer Inc.’s Lipitor, because they can reduce LDL cholesterol by more than 60 percent. However, one year of treatment with Rapatha costs $14,000. To jump-start marketing of the drug, Amgen has launched a RepathaReady program that includes one free month while insurance payment is pending, and it is working to make the drug more accessible through price incentives. “Repatha gave us a great opportunity to offer value-based contracts that address payers’ concerns by linking the net price of Repatha to expected LDL cholesterol reductions,” Anthony C. Hooper, executive vice president of global commercial operations at Amgen said in a statement. “This is an important milestone for patients, and we will continue to engage constructively with other payers to enable patients to have access to Repatha.” Staff reporter Stephanie Henkel can be reached at (818) 316-3130 or at shenkel@sfvbj.com.

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