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Novartis Accused of Paying Kickbacks by U.S. Novartis Accused of Paying Kickbacks by U.S.

April 28, 2013 - Prosecutors in the U.S. allege that Novartis, the Swiss drug maker, gave physicians fishing trips and provided them with lavish dinners so they would prescribe their medications.

Novartis says the money was to pay doctors to speak at different educational programs throughout the U.S. However, prosecutors counter that many of the meetings were held at Hooters restaurants.

The U.S. unit of the pharmaceutical giant is accused by federal prosecutors of offering the dinners and fishing trips so doctors would prescribe their brand name medications for treating hypertension and other sicknesses.

On Friday, a civil fraud suit was filed against Novartis in Manhattan in federal court. The fishing trips included ones to the Florida coast, while dinners were Manhattan’s Nobu and in different Hooters in the U.S. One outing was alleged to have been held at a fishing lodge known for its salmon in Alaska.

The Friday lawsuit was the second prosecutors from the federal government have brought against the U.S. arm of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant in just the last week.

Novartis disputes the prosecutors’ claims. On Friday, in a statement that was emailed, Novartis said a defense against the litigation would take place. The statement said the physician speaker program have become a customary and accepted practice in the pharmaceutical industry.

For years, drug companies have paid physicians to speak at meetings with other doctors about their new drugs. The meetings, say members of the industry, are only for educational purposes, but U.S. authorities have for many years scrutinized the payments.

Authorities in the U.S. allege the payments at times are nothing more than a kickback to convince doctors to give prescriptions out for certain medications.

Authorities said Novartis spent close to $65 million and held over 38,000 speaker programs over a period of nine years that ended in late 2011, for three hypertension drugs and one drug for diabetes.

Durable Orders Fall in U.S. by more than 5% Durable Orders Fall in U.S. by more than 5%

April 25, 2013 - Durable Goods orders for March in the U.S. dropped by 5.7%, the largest drop in the past seven months, which adds to evidence that U.S. manufacturing has cooled off during the latter part of the first quarter this year.

Lower prices in commodities and weak markets overseas, have slowed the demand for companies like Caterpillar, Inc, indicating a cooling of manufacturing the last month of the first quarter.

Durable goods orders, which are bookings for products meant to last a minimum of three years dropped following a revised gain of 4.3% for February.

The February gain was less than what had been originally estimated, reported the U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday.

The category that is less volatile that excludes equipment for transportation dropped unexpectedly for the second straight month. Companies are feeling a pinch, with customers reining in their spending on inventories and equipment due to concerns that the federal budget cuts that took effect across the board in March and slower growth internationally will slow down the largest economy in the world.

However, gains in auto and housing are helping others and supporting even more expansion. Most stocks were up on Wednesday, which extended a rally in the S&P 500 for the fourth consecutive day, as companies from Apple to Boeing reported their earnings.

While the data about orders indicated a cooling of business investment during the first quarter following a climb of 11.8% based on an annualized rate in the final quarter of 2012, it is still a rising trend.

Overseas, the latest figures for early in the second quarter showed that Europe was not making much progress in emerging from its deep recession.

Sprint Loses Customers but Beats Expectations Sprint Loses Customers but Beats Expectations

April 24, 2013 - Sprint Nextel Corp, the third biggest wireless carrier in the U.S., reported a loss in the first quarter that was narrower than expected, even though the company saw more than 560,000 subscribers leave.

The loss for the first quarter reached 21 cents per share for the company based in Overland Park, Kansas. Analysts predicted that Sprint would lose 34 cents per share. Sales for the company increased by less than 1% from the same period a year ago to end at $8.79 billion compared to Wall Street analysts’ estimates of $8.74 billion.

Over the last 12 months, shares at Sprint have more than tripled as the business has found itself amidst a bidding war. SoftBank Corp, a Tokyo-based company agreed to pay Sprint $20 billion to have a 70% share, but earlier in April, Dish Network offered to pay $25.5 billion. Both of the deals have the goal of building Sprint into a company that can better challenge Verizon and AT&T.

The company forecasted its operating profit for 2013 at the high end of the range it had previously made of between $5.2 billion and $5.5 billion prior to amortization and depreciation.

Estimates had predicted Sprint would lose 512,000 customers. Sprint has continued to make improvements to its network, while offering a larger range of smartphones to catch its competitors. The average phone bill during the first quarter for Sprint’s contract customers was up from $61.47 during the fourth quarter of last year to $62.47.

Sprint also sold over 5 million smartphones during the quarter including more than 1.5 million iPhones from Apple, which was down from the 2.2 million it sold during the fourth quarter of 2012

Sprint narrowed its loss in the first quarter to $643 million from last year’s first quarter loss of $863 million.

Hundreds of Undocumented Immigrants Sent Home by Hospitals in U.S. Hundreds of Undocumented Immigrants Sent Home by Hospitals in U.S.

April 24, 2013 - Hundreds of immigrants that were in the U.S. illegally have been transported back to their home countries by hospitals in the U.S. This little known or heard off system of removal is not run by the government, but by individual hospitals who seek to lower their costs.

A report recently published compiled by a number of immigrant advocacy groups attempted to determine the number of people that have been sent home. The report concluded that 600 immigrants had been removed over a period of five years, though it was likely many more had been sent home.

Through interviews with the immigrants themselves, family members, advocates and attorneys it has become known that the process is formally called “Medical Repatriation.” The process gives hospitals the opportunity to put patients onto an international chartered flight, often times while the patients are in a state of unconsciousness. Hospitals normally pay for the airline cost.

However, immigrant advocate groups are becoming concerned that hospitals might soon start expanding the repatriation process once the complete implementation of the healthcare reform is done, which would make deep cuts to payments that hospitals are given for taking care of those who are uninsured.

Many executives in the health care industry said they have become caught between a political battle involving immigration and the requirement they must accept every patient. Hospitals by law must care for everyone who needs to be treated for an emergency, regardless if they are able to pay or their legal status as immigrants.

However, once the patient has been stabilized, the funding from the government ceases as does the requirement to continue treatment. Many workers who are undocumented cannot qualify for Medicaid, the insurance program run by the governments for the elderly and poor.

Because of that, hospitals try to move the patients into nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities or back to their homeland.

Civil rights advocates say this practice violates International and U.S. laws and targets unfairly one of the most defenseless populations in the country.

Bank of America Profits up But Short of Forecasts Bank of America Profits up But Short of Forecasts

April 17, 2013 - Bank of America Corp. enjoyed a strong first quarter increase in profits compared to the same quarter one year ago, when the bank had problems due to large charges that were debt-related.

The bank said its results were pushed by an increase it is brokerage income, higher fees in investment banking and an improvement in credit quality, which was in part offset by lower gains on debt securities sales and lower income from mortgage banking.

Profit at the bank was reported at $2.62 billion in comparison with one year earlier when it was just $653 million. On the basis of per share, which also includes preferred dividends’ payments, the bank showed a profit of $0.20 versus last year in the same quarter a profit of just $0.03.

Revenue for this quarter was up by over 5.5% to reach $23.5 billion. Analysts had the bank forecasted for earnings per share of $0.22 and revenue reaching $23.41 billion.

Bank of America two years ago embarked on a difficult retreat from the home mortgage business, but is now preparing a new run at that same market in the U.S.

However, Bank of America’s surge to take back the home mortgage business, comes at a time when peers like Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase reported results a week ago that showed a substantial slowdown in home lending.

As many of its peers have done, Bank of America is cutting costs to help offset less revenue. During the first quarter, expense that was noninterest dropped by 5.2% from the same quarter last year and fell by 1.1% from the last quarter of 2012 to settle at $18.1 billion.

Back at the end of 2011, the bank announced job cuts of 30,000 to reduce its costs by over $8 billion each year by the middle of 2015.

Some Say New Immigration Bill too Stringent Some Say New Immigration Bill too Stringent

April 17, 2013 - Civil liberties and faith-based groups, ahead of the release of the sweeping immigration overhaul proposal, started calling for the proposal to be changed singling out the path to become a citizen for undocumented immigrants as being too stringent.

President Obama commented on the proposal Tuesday afternoon by saying it was clearly a work of compromise and warned that no one, including himself, would get all they wanted.

However, after he was briefed on the new immigration proposal by two of its authors Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, Obama said its contents were largely consistent with the principles he has for comprehensive immigration reform.

Obama said the bill would help to strengthen the borders of the U.S. and hold more accountable employers, if they hire undocumented immigrants knowingly. It also, said Obama, provides the immigrants that are already in the U.S. with a pathway to reach citizenship.

The proposal would also bring the immigration system into the 21st century helping to reunited families that have been separated and to attract entrepreneurs that are highly skilled who can create good paying jobs that will help the economy grow, said the President.

The two senators said they felt good about the proposal since Obama was supportive of it, even though he did have some reservations. The two said this was just the start of the process not its end. Now hearings will begin, amendments will be added and floor debates will take place.

The American Civil Liberties Union called for change saying the even though there is a breakthrough with this legislation the road to become a citizen should not exclude those who have committed minor crimes or those unable to pay large fines.




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