Roche Diagnostics, Ventana Medical, Aetna, Medicare Competitive Bid Demo

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NEW CEO NAMED AT ROCHE DIAGNOSTICS, VENTANA OFFER EXTENDED

LAST WEEK, ROCHE HOLDINGS AG announced the appointment of Jürgen Schwiezer to become CEO of Roche Diagnostics, effective January 1, 2008. He succeeds Severin Schwan, who will take over for Franz B. Humer as Roche Group CEO on March 4.

Schwiezer is currently President of Roche’s regions for Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Previously, Schwiezer held management sales positions at Boehringer Mannheim, which Roche acquired in 1997. He has extensive experience in the diagnostics business and a long track record in Europe, which is Roche’s largest market region.

In a separate announcement, Roche extended, until November 1, its hostile takeover offer for Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. The offer was scheduled to expire on September 20. This is the third time Roche has extended its tender offer for Ventana. In June, Roche offered to acquire all of the 34 million outstanding common shares of Ventana, based in Tucson, Arizona, for $75 per share, representing 44% premium over Ventana’s close of $51.95 on June 22. (See TDR, July 16, 2007.)

 AETNA OFFERS TOOL FOR COST COMPARISON

CONSUMER PRICE TRANSPARENCY takes another step forward. Starting next month, Aetna, Inc.’s members will have a new Web-based tool to help them determine how much they can expect to pay for specific procedures done in hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers.

The tool, accessed through Aetna’s password-protected member Web site, provides information for facilities in all or parts of 11 states and the District of Columbia. The “Medical Procedure by Facility Cost” program will include charges for the facility, the physician, and ancillaries such as lab and anesthesia services. It allows members to compare different providers for all costs— from admission to discharge—for 30 common procedures.

The tool is the third instrument from Aetna as it seeks to make more price and quality information available to members. In 2005, Aetna started its Physician-specific Price Transparency program to give members access to physician-specific prices for 30 common in-office procedures. Last year, Aetna launched its Physician-specific Clinical Quality and Efficiency Transparency program to provide members with physician-specific indicators based on adverse events, 30-day hospital readmission rates, and overall efficiency in use of services.

BILL WOULD REPEAL LAB BIDDING DEMO

THREE SENATORS introduced a bill to repeal the Medicare competitive bidding demonstration project for clinical lab services. Titled “Preserving Access to Laboratory Services Act of 2007” it was introduced on September 26.

The Senators are Ken Salazar (D- Colorado), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and all three serve on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare. Similar legislation, HR 3453, was introduced by Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-New York) in August.

After a basic introduction to the competitive demonstration project was made public earlier this year, Congress has heard a steady stream of comments from the laboratory profession in opposition to the planned demonstration.

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