Ben McLannahan

The denial from Chugai Pharmaceutical could hardly have been more emphatic.

No, Japan’s number three drugmaker by market capitalisation had nothing to do with news reports that Roche, its 59.89 per cent shareholder, was weighing a buyout of minorities, it announced on Saturday. Then it went on: “Chugai is in no way in the process of reviewing any plan to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Roche, nor discussing with Roche about such a transaction.” Read more

I am sitting in a packed conference room, somewhere in the heart of London’s financial centre, in an office I have sworn not to identify. It is quiet for a midweek lunchtime. In fact, it is silent. Along with the ex-chairman of a blue-chip company, a handful of executives and board members, a former senior central banker, a Buddhist software engineer, a Benedictine monk and 60 others, I am meditating. Or trying to.

John Gapper

Pfizer has finally made a public announcement of its interest in AstraZeneca. One of the main points of the deal, it turns out, is tax inversion – turning Pfizer into a UK-domiciled company.

Pfizer is making tax inversion a point of the proposed deal Photo: Bloomberg

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What is a doctor’s job? Is it: a) to diagnose illness; b) to treat patients; or c) to persuade other doctors to prescribe a brand-name pill? To those answering c), here is an additional question: do you work for a pharmaceuticals company?

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s new chief executive, has just laid out a new strategy to “focus, accelerate and transform” the pharmaceutical company. Mark Thompson, newly arrived at the helm of The New York Times Company, has promised to “concentrate [the group’s] strategic focus” on the core business, putting The Boston Globe up for sale and rebranding the venerable International Herald Tribune.

John Gapper

There aren’t too many fat attendees of the the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, where I am spending a few days this week. They are mostly high achievers who are lean and mean.

Two-thirds of US adults and one in five children are overweight or obese

Two-thirds of US adults and one in five children are overweight or obese

That is probably just as well, given what Michael Milken, the pioneer of the US high yield bond market, whose eponymous foundation runs the event, thinks about the estimated $1,000bn added annually to US healthcare costs by obesityRead more

Andrew Hill

Listen to political debate about the future of Britain’s public health system and you’d quickly draw the conclusion that it is overburdened with useless, pen-pushing bureaucrats who prevent “front-line” staff from saving lives.

Wrong, says a new report from the King’s Fund, a think-tank that has managed to condense into a core of 31 pages the latest thinking on public health management – and on management in general. Read more

John Gapper

Further to my column on Avandia suggesting that politicians should leave it to properly qualified regulators to decide on drug safely, the FDA advisory committee considering the anti-diabetes drug this afternoon decided against recommending that it is taken off the market.

That is something of a slap in the face to the politicians who I believe got ahead of themselves in declaring Avandia to be “a dangerous drug”, in the words of Rosa DeLauro, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives last month. Read more

Melinda Gates

I’m in Davos this week to talk about an issue that I’m especially passionate about: helping mothers and children in the developing world.

Research shows that helping women stay healthy and achieve financial security has an amazing ripple effect. A healthy woman is more likely to give birth to a healthy child. She can earn money to feed her family, send her kids to school and buy medicine when they’re sick. When women thrive, their families thrive and their entire community prospers.

Earlier this week, I visited Benin and Malawi to see some of the great progress the two countries are making. In Benin I had the honour of travelling with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the first lady of France and an amazing advocate for women and children. We went to the village of Dangbo, where we visited a hospital that provides a full range of free health services for pregnant women. They have a fantastic program that integrates these services with HIV testing, counselling and treatment. We talked to several women there who had come in for prenatal care and then decided to get tested for HIV. If they test positive, they can immediately get drugs that will help keep them from passing the virus on to their babies. Read more

John Gapper

Speaking as (free) customer of 23 and Me, the genetic testing company co-founded by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder, I can see why it has just slashed its prices.

The New York Times reports this morning that 23 and Me is cutting the price for people who want to spit into a laboratory tube, send it off in the mail, and receive some genetic information about themselves.

Instead of $999 per test, the test price is now $399. Linda Avey, Ms Wojcicki’s co-founder, says that the privately-owned Silicon Valley company wants to entice more people to give it a shot, which would allow more interesting research applications:

“It’s all about numbers and having as many people enrolled as possible.”

Some readers may recall that I was offered a free genetic test while at the World Economic Forum earlier this year, along with my colleague Gideon Rachman. So I have some insight into whether it is worth doing. Read more

John Gapper


My FT column this week is about Roche’s offer to buy the stake in Genentech it does not already own. I believe it is taking risks with its reputation and the value that it has gained from Genentec. It starts as follows: Read more

I spent yesterday afternoon at the New School in New York listening to a panel of Senators and one Congressman discussing what to do about the US healthcare system. They were sponsors of rival bills in Congress intended to reform the expensive and inefficient status quo.

Aiming off for the fact that it was a New York academic audience confronting a bunch of inside-the-Beltway reformers, a few things struck me. Read more