What We're Reading: VA Nominee and Retirement Choice; Mega Deals and PCPs; Novartis Buys Gene Therapy Firm

Ronny L. Jackson, MD, would give up $1 million in retirement income to head the Department of Veterans Affairs and work in the Trump administration; mega healthcare deals endanger independent practices of primary care providers; Novartis is buying a gene therapy firm focused on spinal muscular atrophy.

Jackson Would Give Up $1 Million in Retirement Income to Head the VA, Work for Trump Administration

The nomination of President Donald Trump’s doctor, Ronny L. Jackson, MD, to head the Department of Veterans Affairs has grown more complicated by the Navy physician’s pending military promotion, The Washington Post reported. If confirmed for the Cabinet post, he would be forced to give up an estimated $1 million in future retirement income. The dual nominations and a lack of clarity from the White House have left lawmakers confused about how to proceed.

Mega Deals Endanger Independent Primary Care Providers

New mega-mergers as well as an increasing propensity for patients to head to urgent care centers or retail clinics is putting pressure on independent primary care doctors, The New York Times reported over the weekend. One example: Walmart and Humana. One potential partnership under consideration would focus on using the retailer’s stores and expanding its existing 19 clinics for 1-stop medical care. In addition, the proposed $69 billion merger between CVS Health, which operates 1100 MinuteClinics, and Aetna, the giant insurer, would expand the customer bases of both. And rival UnitedHealth Group employs more than 30,000 physicians and operates one of the largest urgent-care groups, MedExpress, as well as a big chain of free-standing surgery centers.

Novartis Buying Gene Terapy Firm Focused on Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Novartis is buying gene therapy company AveXis for $8.7 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported. AveXis is a gene therapy company conducting several clinical studies for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy. Novartis is betting that at least 1 promising drug that AveXis is developing will translate into a blockbuster. Novartis has already spearheaded gene therapy in oncology.