American Healthcare Systems, San Diego, has created a $27.6 million venture capital investment fund in an innovative partnership with six healthcare companies. AmHS Medical Partner Fund is believed to be the first of its kind to link a hospital company with corporate vendors, said Bruce Kaechele, AmHS' vice president for business development. AmHS expects to invest $8 million a year from the fund over the next three years in privately held healthcare companies, Kaechele said. The targeted companies, which have not been announced, will develop products and services designed to lower healthcare costs, increase productivity and improve patient care, he said. The six companies participating with AmHS in the fund are Becton Dickinson, C.R. Bard, Executive Risk, Johnson & Higgins, Kinetic Concepts and Nycomed. AmHS, which will administer the fund, is contributing half the $27.6 million. Over the past six years, AmHS has committed $87 million to its investment portfolio, which includes two other venture capital funds.
Vencor, a Louisville, Ky.-based chain of 36 intensive-care hospitals, reported a 48% growth in profits for the second quarter ended June 30. The company reported net income of $10.8 million, or 35 cents per share, compared with $7.3 million, or 26 cents per share, in the year-ago period. For the six months, Vencor reported a 51% increase in net income to $20 million, or 66 cents per share, from $13.2 million, or 49 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenues grew 41% to $261.1 million.
Apria Healthcare Group announced it has entered into a national agreement with United HealthCare Corp. to provide respiratory therapy and home medical equipment to the managed-care company's 3.8 million enrollees. Apria will also provide infusion therapy services. The company did not disclose the value of the contract, which went into effect July 1. Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Apria formed as a result of last month's merger between Abbey Healthcare Group and Homedco Group. The two companies had been the only national providers available to United enrollees. Their combination forms a broader geographic reach, as well as more integrated patient care, according to Jeremy M. Jones, Apria's chairman and chief executive officer. Apria provides integrated home-care services including home infusion, respiratory therapy and home medical equipment through 350 branches in 48 states. Minneapolis-based United owns or manages 21 managed-care plans.
Baxter International faces about 50 lawsuits, consolidated in Los Angeles federal court, over a drug linked to several cases of hepatitis C, a sometimes fatal liver disease. Several suits also have been filed in state courts, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. The drug, Gammagard, is made from plasma and treats immune diseases, such as AIDS. Baxter allegedly didn't take steps to kill viruses in an early version of the drug, released in 1986, although it and the Food and Drug Administration knew similar products might transmit hepatitis C, the Journal said. The Deerfield, Ill.-based hospital supplier recalled the product in 1994 and now sells a safer version. Baxter said that until 1994 Gammagard appeared safe. It estimates that 350 people worldwide might have contracted the disease. FDA estimates are higher. The case could add steam to a push by the medical-products industry to allow companies to use FDA approval as a defense in product liability cases.
Improper handling of the anesthetic propofol may be causing outbreaks of serious infections at hospitals nationwide, according to a report in the July 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. At room temperature, bacteria can contaminate the anesthetic quickly because it is made from lipids. Hospitals reported 38 outbreaks of bloodstream, surgical-site and other infections from 1989 to 1994 that were linked to contaminated propofol. Studying seven hospitals, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found sloppy preparation techniques. For example, personnel prepared multiple syringes of propofol at one time for use throughout the day, reused syringes or infusion-pump lines and transferred prepared syringes from one operating room to another. The authors warned that hospitals might be attributing many propofol-triggered infections to other causes. They also called for increased efforts to educate anesthesia personnel about the handling of the product.