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Brainstorm Health: Joseph Swedish to Proteus, Bristol-Myers Deal, Idaho Vs. Obamacare

Hey there and happy hump day, readers! This is Sy.

Going to keep this one short and sweet—some intriguing developments on both the policy and business sides today. For one, Proteus Digital Health, the company that won approval for the first-ever “digital pill,” is adding a big name to its roster; and, on the policy end, Idaho is about to set up a critical battle over Obamacare, federalism, and the extent to which the Trump administration is willing to go when it comes to enforcing the health law.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Digital pill maker Proteus scoops up former Anthem CEO for its board. Proteus Digital Health made history last year as the first company to win approval for a “digital pill” in conjunction with Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.—a trackable sensor device attached to the mental illness medication Abilify, which is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Now, Proteus has wooed Joseph Swedish, former CEO of insurance giant Anthem, to join its board of directors as the firm attempts to attract “more patients, more products, and more partners,” says Proteus CEO Andrew Thompson. This month, cloud-based services provider Athenahealth announced that former GE CEO Jeff Immelt as its board chairman, underscoring a trend of major health and technology executives making their way to biotech and digital health companies. (Modern Healthcare)

INDICATIONS

Bristol-Myers strikes $1.85 billion cancer deal with Nektar. Pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb is upping the ante in its quest to dominate the cancer immunotherapy space with a big-bucks drug development and profit-sharing partnership with Nektar. The $1.85 billion deal will give Bristol-Myers access to a promising experimental treatment that may be able to pour some biological gas on the big pharma’s existing immuno-oncology medicines—and help it bolster its position against rival Merck.

Senior Merck chemist reportedly stole and dumped cyanide into a storm drain. Speaking of Merck… Here’s a weird one. A Merck chemist is accused of stealing 220 grams of deadly potassium cyanide and then dumping it down a storm drain in Pennsylvania. No, it wasn’t a terrorism attempt—according to ABC, the chemist was caught stealing the cyanide, which he wanted to use as a rodent killer, but then panicked about being seen and tried to dump the evidence down the drain. He is free on $35,000 bail. (ABC 6)

THE BIG PICTURE

Idaho prepares to go to war with Obamacare. The Trump administration has a big decision to make when it comes to the Affordable Care Act in the next few months: Will it enforce Obamacare’s consumer protections, or defer to states to create far more skimpy plans that run afoul of its regulations? Blue Cross of Idaho is preparing to sell health insurance coverage that would charge Americans with pre-existing conditions more than others and place limits on coverage. “Both in terms of federal penalties and in terms of potential private lawsuits, they are taking on tremendous liabilities here,” said Tim Jost, an emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law and health law expert, in an interview with Bloomberg. “What they’re doing is completely illegal. It’s kind of jaw-dropping.” The Trump administration has already made several moves to unwind Obamacare requirements, but the president has also said he believes in the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. (Bloomberg)

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Produced by Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

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