UNTHSC Researcher Will Lead National Opioid Crisis Steering Committee

Scott Walters has been named Steering Committee Chair of the HEALing Communities Study, an aggressive effort to find solutions that will put a stop to the national opioid crisis. Walters is Regents Professor and Chair of Health Behavior at the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health. The study is a part of the National Institutes of Health HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) Initiative, which is currently backed by more than $350 million in support. “My role as Steering Committee Chair will be like that of a stage manager,” says Walters, per release. “To keep track of all aspects… Full Story

Physician Dispensing in Texas Heads to Court

The 86th Texas Legislative Session came to an end without any movement on physicians’ ability to expense a limited number of common prescription drugs, so two Texas doctors are taking their case to the Travis County Civil District Court, where they are claiming the ban on physician dispensing is unconstitutional. Texas is out of step with the rest of the nation when it comes to the rule, as it is just one of five states to ban physicians from dispensing anything but free samples to their patients, though the state does allow doctors to dispense medications if they live more than… Full Story

McKesson Appoints New Independent Director to Board

The board of directors at McKesson Corp. elected Ken Washington, the chief technology officer at Ford Motor Company, as a new independent director. This will increase the board from nine to ten members, nine of which are independent. Washington leads Ford’s research, development, and implementation of the company’s technological innovations all around the world. He previously served as vice president of the Advanced Technology Center at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, and also built Lockheed’s privacy program. He has also worked in Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. “Ken’s years of experience in technology, research, and privacy strategy at complex global organizations… Full Story

Former Pharmacist Gets Two Years and $7 Million in Kickback Scheme

After pleading guilty to his role in a pharmacy kick-back scheme last year, federal court sentenced ex-pharmacist Ravi Morisetty to two years in federal prison and $7 million in restitution, according to the Dallas Morning News. The former Irving pharmacist was part of a scheme that defrauded the military insurance program of more than $100 million, and is the first of 13 defendants to be sentenced in the Trilogy Pharmacy case. DMN reports that Morisetty admitted to paying Trilogy’s marketers around $400,000 to funnel patients to Alpha Pharmacy, which he owned. Morisetty admitted to paying kickbacks to owners of a… Full Story

Merck’s $2 Billion Acquisition of Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics

Local clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Peloton Therapeutics is being acquired by pharmaceutical giant Merck for an upfront payment of $1.05 billion just as the company was about to go public. Peloton shareholders may receive $1.15 billion more if regulatory and sales milestones are met. Peloton Therapeutics focuses on novel medications for patients with cancer and other life-threatening conditions and is developing a new oral treatment to target late-stage renal cell carcinoma, showing signs of anti-tumor activity in clinical studies. The company raised $150 million in Series E funding in February. Peloton was founded by UT Southwestern scientists with an $11 million grant… Full Story

The Economic Impact of Texas’ Clinical Trial Industry

Texas’ clinical trials are working to come up with new cures for previously untreated disease, but the economic impact of the trials is another added benefit. They have generated $6.61 billion in economic development in the state. Texas was third in the nation for active clinical trials, with 1,989 trials across the state according to a report from TEConomy Partners. The largest group of surgeries by enrollment is oncology. Commercially available prescription medicines go through a long process and requires involvement from government, academia, non-profit organizations, patient advocacy groups, and health care providers before the medicine reaches medicine cabinets. It can… Full Story

McKesson Plans for $150 Million in Lawsuit Fines for Next Fiscal Year

In an earnings call last week, pharmaceutical giant McKesson Corp. said it expects to spend $150 million in 2021 on defending itself from opioid lawsuits, up from $100 million this year, Axios reports. McKesson is the sixth largest company in terms of revenue in the country, and the $150 million is a drop in the bucket relative to its $214 billion in revenue last year, but the lawsuits are adding up, with cases in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and New York in process or recently settled. States and cities are accusing many of the major drug players of knowingly sending inordinate… Full Story

McKesson Corp. Saw Three Percent Revenue Growth in Fiscal Year 2019

Despite being in legal hot water in multiple states for the number of opioids McKesson Corp. sent to patients and doctors, the pharmaceutical giant reported a three percent increase for full-year fiscal 2019 revenue and two percent up from last year’s fourth quarter. The fourth quarter fiscal 2019 revenue was $52.4 billion, and the full year revenue was $214.3 billion. Shareholders received $1.9 billion due to share repurchases and dividends in fiscal year 2019. The company has a positive outlook looking forward due to a renewed pharmaceutical distribution relationship with CVS Health through 2023. McKesson’s cashflow was $4.0 billion for… Full Story

North Texas Leads on Medical Marijuana and E-Cigarette Legislation

Fort Worth Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick’s bill to expand medical marijauna coverage has passed the Texas House of Representatives by a vote of 133-10, and will head to the Senate where it will be debated further. Klick’s bill was accompanied by another more expansive medical marijauna bill authored by Brownsville Democrat Rep. Eddie Lucio III, which also passed by an overwhelming majority. Currently, Texas’ Compassionate Use Act says that intractable epilepsy is the only condition that can be legally treated by cannabis with low levels of THC. Klick, a nurse, is the author of the 2015 Compassionate Use Act. But the… Full Story

Two North Texas Docs, One Nurse Sentenced to Federal Prison in Opioid Case

Two healthcare professionals were sentenced to federal prison last week for illegally distributing opioids and other controlled substances in the Eastern District of Texas. After pleading guilty last October, Dr. Howard Gregg Diamond, a Sherman physician, received a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substance and 10 more years for health care fraud. Diamond began writing fraudulent prescriptions for hydrocodone, fentanyl, oxycodone and other opiates in 2010 from his pain management offices in Sherman and Paris, Texas. In 2014, an individual died after taking morphine, oxycodone, alprazolam, and zolpidem that Gregg distributed. Court documents also show… Full Story