The year just started but so far it hasn’t been a great one for Amgen Inc. – at least if measured by the number of national controversies its embroiled in. The first brouhaha centered on the company’s lobbying during the fiscal cliff negotiations, resulting in what critics are calling a corporate giveaway. And just last week, the company made headlines for lobbying state legislatures to block generic versions of some of its drugs. The fiscal cliff controversy stems from the company’s efforts to protect reimbursements for Sensipar, a medicine used by dialysis patients. Oral kidney treatments were supposed to fall under Medicare price controls this year, but the exemption inserted into the legislation that resolved the fiscal cliff will give drug makers nearly $500 million more in compensation – and Sensipar is the main drug to benefit from the exemption. When news of the exemption became public, lawmakers reacted by demanding repeal. “This eleventh-hour, backroom deal confirms the American public’s worst suspicions of how Congress operates,” said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, in a statement after he sponsored repeal legislation. “The American taxpayer was stuck with the $500 million tab.” In its own statement, Amgen responded that the exemption would give researchers at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies time to study the effects of price controls on patient care, arguing that applying them to dialysis patients prematurely could be dangerous. “A two-year delay provides CMS with the time needed to develop quality metrics,” the statement said. Then on Jan. 29, the New York Times reported that Amgen and Genentech Inc. in San Francisco have lobbied for bills in eight states that would restrict pharmacists from giving generic biotech drugs to patients. At issue for Amgen is a potential revenue loss as many of its blockbuster drugs are losing patent protection, opening them up to competition from generics. Immune disorder drug Enbrel, which lost protection late last year, accounted for $1.16 billion in revenue last year. Neupogen, used to ward off infection in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, will lose patent protection this year. It generated revenue of $312 million last year. In a statement, Amgen said it supports state laws that focus on patient safety for generic drugs that are extremely complex and need proper storage and handling. “Amgen is helping educate state policymakers on these considerations,” the statement said. “Amgen believes that patient safety does not stop at drug approval.” Hospital Layoffs Two Glendale hospitals are trimming their payroll as they prepare for lower Medicare payments that accompany the federal health reform scheduled to start January 2014. Glendale Memorial Hospital, owned by Dignity Health of San Francisco, is laying off an undetermined number of union and non-union workers. The hospital cited declining patient visits and an increase in uninsured patients in addition to expected cuts to government insurance programs. Nearby Glendale Adventist Medical Center, owned by Adventist Health in Roseville, plans to cut staff by 21, also in response to federal health care payment reforms. “Although we have made adjustments through attrition and the postponement of hiring for vacancies where possible, the declining federal payments cannot support the staffing levels that we currently have,” said Glendale Adventist Chief Executive Kevin Roberts, in a statement. Under federal reform, payments for elderly patients that qualify for both federal MediCare and state-run Medi-Cal may fall as much as 40 percent, said Jim Lott, executive vice-president at Hospital Association of Southern California, a Los Angeles-based trade association. The reform package is widely expected to decrease the number of uninsured patients by mandating everyone have insurance coverage, but Lott said other hospitals in the region are cutting staff in anticipation of reduced revenue. “Some hospitals are looking at a $3 million to $4 million cut to their bottom lines this year, and per year going forward,” Lott said. “Hospitals are not cutting to deal with today; they are saving for the future.” Encino Plastic Beverly Hills Physicians, a doctor’s network of plastic surgeons, has opened a new surgical center in Encino. The Beverly Hills-based group previously had rented offices on the second floor of a nearby office building. The move to its own stand-alone building will allow it to expand services, which include nose surgery, eyelid surgery and breast augmentation. Currently, between three and five surgeons work daily at the Encino center, located at 15630 Ventura Blvd. Dr. Michael Hayavi, co-owner of Beverly Hills Physicians, said the company’s goal is to bring the best plastic surgeons in to new neighborhoods. For example, Dr. Andrew Cohen, chief resident of the cosmetic surgery department at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, performs many operations at the new Encino location. “Historically, plastic surgery has been associated only with the affluent,” he said. “We want to make it a realistic option for everyone, withi our pricing and by making financing available.” Other locations are in Thousand Oaks, Valencia, Pasadena and Rancho Cucamonga. Staff Reporter Joel Russell can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.