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Brainstorm Health: Amazon JPM Berkshire Name, Special K Nasal Spray, Bristol-Myers Celgene Deal

March 6, 2019, 10:59 PM UTC

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

Ever since Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway announced an ambitious quest to lower health care costs and boost outcomes for their approximately one million employees, one question reigned supreme: What would the triumverate call this new health venture?

Ok, so there were (and are) more important questions, such as, how do these formidable firms plan on achieving a goal that’s eluded the U.S. medical sector for pretty much forever? But the name issue was also important—if for nothing else than the fact that “Amazon-JPMorgan-Berkshire Hathaway” just has way too many letters.

Details have yet to emerge on the first question; but the second has finally been answered. The trio’s venture will be called Haven.

The group even has an explanation for why it chose this title on its new website: “It reflects our goal to be a partner to individuals and families and help them get the care they need, while also working with clinicians and others to make the overall system better for all.”

Haven will be run by CEO Atul Gawande, the renowned oncologist-journalist, and feature an executive team that includes Berkshire investment officer Todd Combs, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Amazon senior vice president Beth Galetti. It will be centered in Boston and have offices in New York.

Early reports from Dimon and others have suggested that AI-fueled analysis of health data, payment incentive changes that line up with health outcomes, a deeper look at end-of-life care and the use of high-cost prescription drugs, will play into Haven’s strategy.

Personally, I was hoping they’d go with my preferred naming option: Morgberkazon.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


A tale of two depression drugs (including a "special" one). J&J's "Special K" nasal spray is officially coming to the market. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially approved the treatment, esketamine (to be sold as Spravato), for treatment of depression patients who have taken at least two other drugs to no avail (and in combination with a more traditional antidepressant). The nasal spray is a chemical relative of the club drug and anesthetic ketamine. While some praised the new treatment option as one that could help thousands of patients with stubborn forms of depression, Spravato is not without controversy; concerns have lingered over its safety and overall efficacy, but not enough to derail an FDA green light. On the other end of the spectrum, shares of Botox maker Allergan sank 3.5% in after hours trading as an experimental depression drug scooped up as part of a $560 million deal for the biotech Naurex failed in several different clinical trials.

Bristol-Myers tries to calm opposition to Celgene takeover. Bristol-Myers Squibb is fighting hard to keep shareholders in line as opposition mounts to its proposed $74 billion Celgene takeover bid. "We undertook a robust and comprehensive review of our core business and strategic expansion opportunities potentially available to the company and identified the Celgene acquisition as the most attractive opportunity for shareholder value creation," the company said in a letter to shareholders on Wednesday. A number of hedge funds such as Wellington Management and biotech investors such as Brad Loncar have expressed deep skepticism about the deal, citing the high debt load it would incur and a lackluster experimental pipeline; BMS has argued that snapping up Celgene would give it a much-needed footprint in the cancer immunotherapy space. (CNBC)


Alcohol, drug, suicide deaths spike to all-time high. A new analysis from Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust (WBT) finds that more Americans died from alcohol, drugs, and suicide in 2017 then any other year since record-keeping on such metrics began. More than 150,000 Americans died from alcoholism, overdoses, or suicide that year—a 6% increase from 2016. The trend was driven by a 45% spike in deaths from synthetic opioid use and a 22% rise in suicides between 2008 and 2017, among other factors, the authors wrote.


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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