“July 31, 2000 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Medical Management Programs, Inc. (MMP) of Southfield, Michigan is the new owner of the TPA (third party administrator) business formerly held by Universal Standard Medical Laboratories. MMP purchased the TPA business involving lab testing and home health services from USML’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy case last fall. During the 1990s, USML was unique among the nation’s laboratories in offering TPA services.

MERGER RUMORS

New rumors predict that a well-known lab information systems vendor will merge with a healthcare e-commerce company. The announcement may come at any time. As an interesting side note to this merger, the e-commerce partner already has a direct-to-consumer Web site which allows consumers to order clinical laboratory tests.

GENETIC TEST FOR MELANOMA ALMOST READY FOR MARKET

“Predictive medicine” will soon get a new diagnostic tool. Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has developed a genetic test that predicts whether or not a patient has a virulent, generally fatal, form of melanoma. Clinical studies indicate that melanoma patients with normal melastatin levels have a 95% chance of remaining cancer-free for up to a decade following therapy. Millennium’s new assay is expected to receive FDA clearance soon. But because there are no effective therapies for the aggressive form of melanoma, some physicians are uncomfortable with the idea of using this predictive test.

MORE ON: GENETIC TEST

Millennium’s new melanoma assay will be manufactured and distributed by Becton, Dickinson & Co. (BD). The fact that Millennium chose a diagnostics company as partner indicates that both firms expect clinical laboratories will be the best channel to educate physicians about how to order and use the new genetic assay. The melastatin assay is a direct result of research into RNA strands responsible for creating proteins. Melastatin’s precise function in skin cells remains unknown, but its absence is linked to aggressive melanomas.

HEALTHEON/WEBMD TURNING OVER STAFF

Interesting things are afoot at Healtheon/WebMD Corporation. In January, Nancy Ham “retired” unexpectedly. Ham was in charge of the company’s Dx product, which uses the Internet to enable laboratory test ordering and results reporting. Now Cheryl Cruver has departed, to assume duties with the newly-organized LabPortal.com. As recently as late May, Cruver was doing public presentations on behalf of Healtheon/ WebMD’s Dx product. During the last half of 1999, Healtheon/WebMD inked contracts with Laboratory Corporation of America, DIANON Systems, Inc., and UroCor, Inc. to provide Web-based lab test ordering and results reporting services. However, implementation of these services seems to be taking longer than projected.

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