In recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in mergers and acquisitions in the health care sphere. Since Obamacare has started to change incentives in health care, hospitals have been joining together and buying up outpatient and primary care clinics to form massive health systems. In the process, they’ve changed the way Americans access healthcare. And this hits pretty close to home: within just one year, Jefferson has undergone a merger with Abington Health and signed a letter of intent with Aria Health.
M&A has become a big deal in other sectors of healthcare as well – including the pharmaceutical industry. This past weekend, Pfizer Inc (which makes, among other things, Viagra and the pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar), and the Irish company Allergan Plc (which makes Botox), decided to combine forces in a record $160 billion deal. This deal is unprecedented: it’s the largest acquisition deal in any industry this year, the largest pharmaceutical acquisition in history, and it creates the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. It’s also interesting in that it’s an inversion deal, meaning that the smaller company (Allergan) will technically be buying its much larger partner, Pfizer. Why? So Pfizer can relocate it’s tax address to Ireland, and avoid the US’s much higher corporate tax rate.
Layla Richards is a one-year old girl in London who was diagnosed with aggressive leukemia a few months ago. Traditional chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant didn’t help: her doctors believed her cancer to be “incurable” and recommended the family focus on palliative care. A highly experimental therapy involving gene editing changed that. The therapy used a virus to insert new genes into donor white blood cells. The inserted genes created “designer” immune cells that attacked only the cancer cells, and hid from other cancer drugs. Although the technology behind this cure has been around in experimental forms for a while, it has been limited to treatments for a very small number of patients. Layla’s story may indicate that it’s ready to move into mainstream medicine. BBC speculates that, “After the overhyped false dawn fifteen years ago, gene-editing is now, it seems, about to arrive.” Although it is too soon to say she’s cured, Layla is alive and her cancer appears to be completely gone.
Esther Dyson is an angel investor and former journalist whom Forbes has named one of the most powerful women in American business. After having made countless numbers of investments in various Internet-based and technology companies, she now has her sights set on improving American health care. She thinks we can reduce spending on health care not through more legislation, but rather through actually improving overall community health. Dyson’s newest venture is called HICCup and its largest project is called “The Way to Wellville.” As an investor, Dyson wants to show that it’s in everyone’s best interest to put money into educational and preventative programs, with the return on investment coming in the form of improved public health and decreased preventable spending. Showing the impact this can have in a small town can hopefully incentivize and inspire implementation of such ideas on a larger scale and translate to communities across the country going forward.