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Roche to buy Alphabet-backed Flatiron; US healthcare market ripe for disruption

Top news

* Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG will pay $1.9 billion to acquire Flatiron Health Inc., an Alphabet Inc.-backed healthcare technology and services company. Insiders told CNBC that drug distributor McKesson Corp. was also interested in acquiring the startup.

* The healthcare market in the U.S., which spent $3.3 trillion in 2016 on medical products and services, is ripe for disruption from a new entrant — especially Amazon.com Inc. — due to steep costs, growing consumerism, lack of transparency and strong regulatory oversight, S&P Global Ratings said in a report.

* The flu vaccine used in the U.S. for the 2017-2018 season is 36% effective overall, although that rate dropped to 25% in protecting Americans against the predominant strain, H3N2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On the policy front

* U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar hit some bumps on the second day of his Capitol Hill budget road show, confronted with questions about what his agency was doing to prevent Idaho from allowing insurers to sell health plans that may fail to meet the Affordable Care Act's requirements. In addition, he was asked to explain why the administration wants to cut funding by $1 billion at the CDC.

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a guidance document to help researchers identify the best approach on drug development for certain neurological conditions, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer's disease, as part of the agency's goal to modernize drug regulatory programs.

Under one of the proposals, the FDA could approve an Alzheimer's medicine to use before the disease exhibits outward signs, if the treatment affects a biological marker of the disease, Bloomberg News noted.

* Joe Simons, an antitrust lawyer nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump to head the Federal Trade Commission, suggested forming a task force that will look into whether drugmakers are practicing anti-competitive behavior that leads to higher drug costs, Bloomberg reported.

* Ahead of gubernatorial elections in November, state and federal Republican lawmakers are considering reinsurance proposals that aim to boost the Affordable Care Act and curb premiums, in a reversal from the GOP's uniform opposition to the law that they tried to repeal, The Wall Street Journal wrote.

Drug and product pipeline

* The U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended Eisai Co. Ltd.'s cancer drug Lenvima for routine use under the National Health Service to treat progressive, locally advanced or metastatic differentiated thyroid cancer after surgery and radioactive iodine therapy.

* Merck KGaA and Pfizer Inc.'s immunotherapy Bavencio failed to improve survival in patients with non-small cell lung cancer who had previously been treated with chemotherapy.

* Celgene Corp. said Otezla improved the symptoms of patients with active ulcerative colitis, a relapsing inflammatory bowel disease, in a phase 2 study.

* Pacira Pharmaceuticals Inc. should not be allowed to claim that its post-surgery pain drug Exparel can be used as a nerve block for regional pain relief, the U.S. FDA's Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee concluded.

Operational activity

* AbbVie Inc.'s board increased the company's quarterly cash dividend by 35% to 96 cents per share from 71 cents per share and authorized a new $10 billion stock repurchase program.

* The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority is closing a pricing investigation into Concordia International Corp.'s Fusidic Acid eye drops for conjunctivitis.

* The Indian Supreme Court rejected an appeal by former Ranbaxy Laboratories promoters Malvinder and Shivinder Singh against a ruling that upheld a 35 billion-rupee arbitral award in favor of Japan-based Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd., The Economic Times of India reported.

Our features

US healthcare 15th in cybersecurity among major industries, report says: The U.S. healthcare industry ranks 15th in cybersecurity health compared with 17 other major industries, according to a new report by SecurityScorecard.

Other features

* Amazon is starting small in its big ambitions to shake up the healthcare sector, initially planning to become a leading provider of medical supplies such as bandages, latex gloves and sutures, Bloomberg noted.

* The Journal highlighted the long-term threat that new entrants and recent transactions — an evident reshaping of the healthcare industry — may pose to established players.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 1.97% to 31,115.43, and the Nikkei 225 was up 1.19% to 21,720.25.

In Europe, as of midday, the FTSE 100 had risen 0.56% to 7,275.10, and the Euronext 100 had climbed 0.88% to 1,108.42.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 6:30 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription.

S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.