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Brainstorm Health: Obamacare Enrollment, Cloned Dog, GSK-Pfizer Deal

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

In a somewhat expected move, and under the new leadership of CEO Emma Walmsley, British pharma mainstay GlaxoSmithKline is finally breaking up—but only after a significant new joint venture announcement that will create the world’s largest consumer health care unit.

GSK and U.S. drug maker Pfizer announced on Wednesday that they’ll pool together their formidable consumer health divisions before spinning it off into an independent company that will carry a heavyweight portfolio of over-the-counter products like Advil, Nicorette, and Excedrin. That represents a massive transformation for GSK (and a change of pace for Walmsely, who had previously indicated that she would keep with her predecessor Andrew Witty’s strategy of keeping Glaxo’s various units under one roof).

“[The split is meant to] support our number-one priority, which is strengthening the pharma business,” said Walmsley during a conference call. “[It will allow us to] reset the balance sheet of two focused companies with the appropriate capital structures.”

This is likely to be the last major move that Walmsley makes this year, capping off a series of major changes under her stewardship. GlaxoSmithKline, which has been seen by some analysts as lacking in new drug development, has struck high profile partnerships with firms such as DNA testing outfit 23andMe and a $5.1 billion deal to snatch up cancer-focused biotech Tesaro to boost its R&D pipeline in the past year.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


A Chinese biotech cloned a famous dog, apparently. Celebrity never dies… Especially if you can clone it! Reuters reports that a Chinese biotech company called Sinogene cloned Juice, a nine-year-old pup famous in China’s film and television industry—and all for the low price of $55,000. Juice’s owner has a, uh, interesting way of explaining his decision: “Juice himself is a piece of intellectual property with social influence.” (Fortune)


J&J hits a buzzsaw in talc powder cases. Drug giant Johnson & Johnson got hit with another piece of bad news following a report last week that it had known about asbestos contamination in its talc powder products (an allegation the company denies). On Wednesday, the firm lost a bid to overturn a $4.7 billion jury verdict against it based on claims that such products had led to ovarian cancer. J&J says it will continue to fight the allegations and that the judgment could still eventually be reversed in subsequent cases. (Fortune)


Obamacare enrollment falls, but not as much as expected. Just one week ago, it appeared that enrollment for individual health insurance under the Affordable Care Act would be a total bust this year following the repeal of the health law’s individual mandate and extensive Trump administration efforts to cut off outreach advertising the open enrollment period (not to mention a federal judge’s controversial decision to rule the entirety of the ACA unconstitutional just one day before the sigh up deadline). Yet, enrollment through the federal website dropped just 4% compared to last year (from 8.8 million to 8.45 million). And several states which run their own marketplaces are still open for business. (Fox News)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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