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Brainstorm Health Daily: June 7, 2017

Good morning, Dailies. Today we release the 63rd iteration of the famed Fortune 500—our annual roster of America’s biggest companies. (Go ahead: Click away and make our Web servers do an honest day’s work.)

No. 1 on the list is…(right here, at your fingertips). Okay, I know—You’re above such ruses. So I’ll let it be.

I will say this, however: Whomever the No. 1, 2, and 3 companies on the Fortune 500 might be, seeing the 2017 cast ensemble—in all their naked $12 trillion-in-revenue glory—it’s hard not to notice one thing: There’s a whole lot of health-related selling going on.

Insurer United Health Group, CVS Health, and McKesson, the enormous wholesaler/distributor of medicines, are each in the top 10. (Fortune’s Erika Fry has written a knock-your-socks-off feature on McKesson in the issue, so you may want to run out to your local newsstand and pick up a mag.)

CVS Health, the smallest of that trio with $178 billion in revenue last year, still racked up more dollars at the register than General Motors did. And as much as CVS hawks Altoids and two-for-one Lindt truffles at the checkout, the lion’s share of its revenues (as much as $96 billion in 2016, according to the Drug Channels Institute) comes from its retail chain and specialty (mail-order) pharmacies.

Then there are companies like General Electric, which we don’t categorize as health companies, but kinda sorta are. GE’s medical systems business (diagnostic imaging and more) is that conglomerate’s second-largest segment—and were it a standalone firm, its more than $18 billion in 2016 sales would land it on the Fortune 500. The same goes for our No. 1 entry, which does a fair amount of script-filling ($21 billion worth, in fact).

The industry of health is everywhere in the 500, from Alphabet’s Verily to IBM’s Watson. Which, on the whole, is a good thing, I think. Because some of these companies may actually figure out how to make healthcare work.

Want a bonus essay this morning? Here’s a link to my Editor’s letter for the Fortune 500.)

More news below.

Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE


UC Berkeley will use blockchain in its public health studies. The UC Berkeley School of Public Health is partnering with Taiwan-based Bitmark in order to use block chain in its public health studies. By using the digital ledger technology, which creates a permanent and easily traceable track record of data and data transfer, researchers won’t be reliant on third-party information or systems which could lead to errors or confusion. (Healthcare IT News)

Can your gut stop cancer drugs from working? Some of the most groundbreaking oncology medicines in the world simply don’t work for certain patients or can cause severe side effects among a slice of people. And new research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York suggests this may at least partially be attributable to the presence of certain pesky gut bacteria in different patients which could potentially render a treatment useless by breaking it down improperly. (Nature)


Nevada diabetes drug pricing bill could become a pharma bellwether. After an initial veto by Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada lawmakers may pass a landmark drug price transparency bill that would force diabetes drug makers to disclose cost and pricing information and justify price hikes. Sandoval said the original bill didn’t take the role of pharmacy benefits managers, which procure rebates from biopharma companies, into account. But the new version would require PBMs to disclose these discounts. Sales representatives would also have to be listed to the government and patient advocacy groups who receive funding from drug makers would have to disclose that information. (STAT News)


Francis Collins to remain as NIH director. In a move that’s been drawing bipartisan applause, President Donald Trump has decided to keep Dr. Francis Collins in place as the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “I am grateful for the President’s vote of confidence in my ability to continue to lead this great agency,” said Collins in a statement. Trump has proposed deep cuts to the NIH which have come under fire from Congressional lawmakers, even prompting them to endorse a significant boost to the NIH budget long sought by the agency. (Washington Post)

Anthem exit from Ohio Obamacare marketplaces underscores the massive stakes of the health care debate. Insurance giant Anthem has decided to exit Ohio’s Obamacare marketplaces citing low enrollment amid ongoing uncertainty over the health law’s future, as well as the Trump administration’s threats to cut off insurer payments that are meant to help poorer Americans afford their out-of-pocket medical costs. While a slew of other insurers have also ditched Obamacare, the Anthem departure (albeit only in one state for now) could be bad news for the marketplaces since it’s a much, much bigger player in the exchanges. A complete exit in all states could leave hundreds of thousands of people with no Obamacare insurance options. (NBC News)

Have you heard that the Fortune 500 is out today? Seriously, give it a look(Fortune)


See the Fortune 100 Companies Doing the Most to Stop Climate Changeby Nicolas Rapp and Brian O’Keefe

How the Feds Nabbed Suspected NSA Leaker Reality Winnerby Robert Hackett

Uber Fires 20 Employees After Internal Investigationby Polina Marinova

Michelle Obama to Silicon Valley: Make More Room for Women in Techby Madeline Farber

Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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