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Brainstorm Health: Drugstore as Doctor, Social Media and Suicide Spike, Missouri Abortion Ban

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Happy Friday, readers!

We have a veritable feast of must-read features accompanying the latest Fortune 500 list’s release (I’ve included links to several of them down below and will continue to in the coming days). But I wanted to highlight one specific story, penned by our own veteran journalist Shawn Tully, on the status of the combined CVS-Aetna behemoth.

CVS mega-deal with Aetna birthed a vertically integrated firm that its various executives have argued will simplify patient care by providing a “front door” of access to medicine at your friendly neighborhood drugstore. The multi-pronged strategy would incorporate insurer Aetna’s gigantic customer base into a retail pharmacy giant that also happens to control its own pharmacy benefits business and a slew of walk-in clinics for primary care.

It’s an exciting—and ambitious—proposition. But these are the kinds of projects that may take some time to produce veritable results.

“The $70 billion merger with Aetna made CVS the world’s biggest health care company, with projected revenues of $250 billion in 2019. But so far it hasn’t paid off,” writes Shawn. “In the first quarter of 2019, the new CVS posted profits one-third lower than the amount the two companies had earned separately a year earlier. An integration plan targeting $750 million in savings should help lift profitability.” He goes on to note less-than-enthusiastic reactions from the broader investor market.

Of course, there’s much more to this kind of corporate marriage than immediate profitability or market value growth; in health care, things take time. But I encourage you to read Shawn’s deeply reported and insightful piece on one of the most extraordinary health care M&As in recent history.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee


Is social media playing a role in girls’ suicide spike? A new study published in the journal JAMA Open Network on Friday finds that the suicide rate among young people of both biological sexes has increased since 2007—and while suicide tends to afflict boys at a higher rate, the biggest surge has been among young girls aged 10 to 14 in recent years. The research has led some experts to urge deeper exploration of social media’s potential role in the trend. “The fact that social media has become a primary forum for interpersonal engagement in adolescence, a developmental period when social contact is rapidly rising and becoming increasingly important to well-being, makes this an area of great potential influence and importance,” wrote Joan Luby, of Washington University School of Medicine, and Sarah Kertz, of Southern Illinois University, in an accompanying opinion piece. (Fortune)


AbbVie faces setback for brain cancer drug hopeful. Glioblastoma, among the most intractable of cancers, has felled yet another drug hopeful. This time, the victim is biotech giant AbbVie’s depatuxizumab mafodotin, or ABT-414, which failed to show any survival benefit against the aggressive brain cancer in a late-stage study. The fact that a brain cancer drug proved disappointing is unsurprising; but, for AbbVie, this is yet another knock to the company’s experimental cancer drug pipeline, which has produced a number of late-stage failures including the treatment Rova-T.


Missouri piles on with restrictive abortion bill. Mere days after Alabama enacted the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country, Missouri lawmakers followed up by passing legislation that would ban abortions after the eight week of pregnancy (well before most women know they’re pregnant). Missouri’s governor is expected to sign it into law. The difference between the two bills is that Missouri’s includes an exception for medical emergencies, which Alabama’s law does not. Abortion opponents have openly admitted that such laws are meant to be a conduit to ultimately striking down Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court. (Reuters)


Inside Google’s Civil Warby Beth Kowitt

Male Mentors Are Leaning Outby Ellen McGirt

Why the Giants Among This Year’s Fortune 500 Should Intimidate Youby Erika Fry

Why Investors Should Care More About the Fortune 500 Than the S&P 500by Matthew Heimer

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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