28 November 2021 |

Three Retailers and an Opioid Crisis

By workweek


Three Retailers and an Opioid Crisis

A federal jury found Walgreens, CVS Health and Walmart responsible for fueling the opioid crisis in two Ohio counties, the first time drug retailers are being held responsible for the decades-long opioid crisis. 

The Deets
The jurors found the three big drug retailers contributed to a public nuisance by selling and distributing opioid pain medication. 

  • The plaintiffs argued that these retailers ignored the many red flags about fishy opioid orders from doctors, causing overdoses and deaths in communities. Pharmacists, they said, are the “gatekeepers who have a duty to question suspicious prescriptions.” Should the pharmacy serve as the bartender who cuts you off after too many drinks? 
  • The defendants argued that pharmacists fill prescriptions written by DEA-licensed doctors who prescribe FDA-approved opioids to patients in need — it’s the prescribers who control the demand, not the pharmacists. Should the liability be placed on the doctors writing the actual prescriptions?

Sound Familiar? 
If you’re an avid Huddle reader, then this “public nuisance” argument may sound familiar — I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago regarding Johnson & Johnson. The courts in Oklahoma and California ruled that J&J and other pharmaceutical companies cannot be held responsible for the opioid crisis on account of the public nuisance argument. 

Walgreens, CVS Health and Walmart will undoubtedly appeal this verdict. However, given the similarity in arguments to the California and Oklahoma cases and subsequent ruling, the three retailers will likely appeal the verdict successfully. 


Cloud-based EHR Vendor athenahealth to Be Acquired for $17 Billion

In one of the largest acquisition deals of the year, private equity firms Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman will acquire electronic health record (EHR) company athenahealth for $17 billion. 

athenahealth 101
athenahealth is a cloud-based EHR vendor, providing solutions spanning electronic health records, patient engagement tools, revenue cycle management, telehealth, population health and value-based care management. The company partners with 140,000 ambulatory care providers across more than 120 specialties throughout the U.S. 

The 24-year old company was initially acquired by Elliot’s PE arm Veritas Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital in 2019 for about $5.7 billion. Now, Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman will purchase athenahealth from Veritas and Evergreen for $17 billion. 

Veritas and Evergreen will maintain a minority stake and management will remain the same, with Bob Segert as Chairman and CEO. The company hopes to rapidly scale the business to create a multi-sided digital care network between patient, payer and provider. 

Food for Thought
athenahealth owns about 3.2% of the ambulatory EHR market share, with Epic holding the majority. This $17 billion is an enormous deal but perhaps worth the value since the EHR market is projected to reach $47.25 billion by 2027 at a compound annual growth rate of 7.14%. The total addressable market is huge


Patient Engagement Company Luma Health Raises $130 Million

Patient engagement platform Luma Health raised $130 million in Series C funding, bringing their total funding to $160 million. I’ve been following Luma Health for a while and admire their focus on simplifying the patient experience and administrative tasks.

Luma Health 101
Luma Health automates appointment reminders, scheduling and patient education to streamline the patient experience. At the same time, they reduce the administrative burden on health systems by performing patient outreach and seamlessly integrating into EHRs (they can integrate into 80+ EHRs). In addition, more than 550 health systems, hospitals, federally qualified health centers and clinic networks use Luma Health. 

  • The company is growing fast. Luma health has had 2x growth year-over-year since it was founded in 2015 and 900% three-year growth. The company is on track to serve 25% of all Americans in 2022. 

Patient engagement is the name of the game. Communication platform Vocera is partnering with Amazon Alexa to help patients and caregivers stay connected with their care teams. Another patient communication platform, Weave, just went public earlier this month. The global patient engagement solutions market is projected to reach $29.01 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 12.52%. 


  • We’re keeping an eye on Omicron, the newest coronavirus variant causing concern. Besides having around 50 mutations and may have an increased risk of infection, we don’t know much about it yet. 
  • Tenet Health just dumped another $1.2 billion into its outpatient focus, buying up SurgCenter Development’s stake in 92 ambulatory surgery centers. 
  • EasyHealth raised $135 million. They are using AI to improve the healthcare experience for Americans with Medicare insurance plans.
  • Ribbon Health closed a $43.5 million funding round. They have a wide backing in their mission to provide organizations with more accurate data on providers, insurance plans and the true cost and quality of care. 
  • Ro has placed an order for $30 million worth of Plenity, a recently approved weight loss drug made by Gelesis. It has shown effectiveness over six months, but we’ll have to see how it works in the long term, where most weight loss options fail. 
  • Access to affordable home Covid-19 tests in the US falls far behind that in Europe and experts say it’s because the government didn’t move fast early enough. It’s a problem worth solving, as the effectiveness of new antivirals, like Merck’s, will depend on access to testing.