Procter & Gamble, sanofi-aventis sign Actonel deal with health insurer in US

Procter & Gamble and sanofi-aventis entered into a deal with a US health insurer in which the drugmakers will reimburse the medical costs of non-spinal fractures in women taking the drugmakers' osteoporosis drug Actonel (risedronate). Dan Hecht, general manager for Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, indicated that the company's participation in the pilot programme "shows that we stand behind our product."

The insurer, Health Alliance Medical Plans, announced the agreement Tuesday, and noted that the programme will apply to its clients in the states of Illinois and Iowa. Health Alliance explained that Procter & Gamble and sanofi-aventis will cover the average cost of treatment for the fractures by offering proportional rebates on the purchase price of the drug. Hecht said the deal with Health Alliance could lead to similar arrangements with other commercial insurers, and one day with Medicare.

In response to the announcement, Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's health research group, said Procter & Gamble is marketing its product to insurers by employing "the kind of hucksterism you use to sell soap," and he suggested that lower-priced, effective alternatives are available. Wolfe added that "this is obviously a cold calculation that Procter & Gamble will sell more Actonel via this money-back guarantee than they will pay out." A spokeswoman for Health Alliance, Penny Ransom, noted that physicians' treatment options are not affected by the insurer's deal with the two drugmakers.

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