EpiPen Getting Dose of Competition; Gaping Gender Gap; Wells Fargo So Very Sorry Indeed

Shot to the heart…

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EpiPen, which currently controls 95% of the auto-injector epinephrine market, now has to scoot its greedy butt over to make way for a much-needed competitor. Privately-held Kaleo Pharma is bringing back Auvi-Q, the auto-injector device that was taken off the market back in 2015 because of dosage delivery problems. Apparently the problems have been fixed and you can expect to see Auvi-Q back on the shelves in the first half of 2017. However, before you breathe a sigh of relief, experts have said that the price for Auvi-Q might not be all that competitive. In fact, between 2013 – 2015, Kaleo’s price hikes matched Mylan’s and the cost for the auto-injector might go for $500, just $100 less than EpiPen’s highly-criticized $600 2-pack. Make no mistake. Kaleo’s no more an angel in the pharmaceutical industry than Mylan is. The company is also known for making Evzio injectors which use naloxone to treat opioid-overdoses. Once upon a very short time ago – like a few years – the devices cost $690. But not anymore, as the devices go for $4,500 per two-pack. Kaleo has promised that its Auvi-Q device will be affordable and expects insurance companies to help see that promise through. In the meantime, as Mylan’s generic version of its EpiPen is expected to go for $300, the FDA nixed Teva Pharmaceuticals application for a generic version of the EpiPen citing “major deficiencies.” Yikes.

Rock on, Rwanda!

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Just when you thought the gender pay gap couldn’t get any worse, along comes the World Economic Forum to tell us otherwise in its Global Gender Gap Report. The study examined 144 countries and took into account all kinds of factors like economic opportunities, political empowerment and education. The study disconcertingly found that if we wait 170 years, that pesky gender gap might actually close. But who wants to stick around until the year 2186? Sadly, last year’s projection had us holding our collective breath until 2133 but in all fairness, if we actually start to do things correctly, the gender gap could “could be reduced to parity within the next 10 years.” That’s got to be somewhat reassuring, right? One of the more unpleasant nuggets in the report illustrated that average female salaries were half those of men and disturbingly enough, education gains didn’t necessarily help women increase their salaries. Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Rwanda took the top five spots in that order. (Yes, Rwanda).  I’m thinking maybe it’s time to start poaching our political leaders from those countries. Just a thought. The United Kingdom ranked twentieth, even with a female Prime Minister. Go figure. And even though the U.S. ranked twenty-eighth last year, this year the Land of the Free fell to spot number 45, apparently due to a decline of women in the labor force. At least the U.S.’s ranking wasn’t as bad as Yemen, which ranked dead last. Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan also claimed the loser spots which I suppose makes sense considering those countries tend to treat women as property instead of human beings.

 

It still hurts…

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After just 13 days into his tenure, Wells Fargo already has its latest CEO, Tim Sloan, apologizing. Of course, that apology is over the account scandal that already cost the bank $185 million in fines from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But what’s different about this apology is that Sloan was actually addressing the bank’s 260,000 employees. Which is a step up from last month when former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf took to blaming 5,300 lower-level employees instead. However, karma is not done with the bank just yet as Wells Fargo could end up eating $8 billion in lost business in the next 12-18 months since approximately 14% of its current customers are looking to switch to more trust-worthy competitors.  As Sloan noted in his apology,“many felt we blamed our team members. That one still hurts, and I am committed to rectifying it.” And so the bank is hiring culture experts to fix the weaknesses that led to this ugly episode. Of course, cultural weaknesses aside, the bank can look forward to both criminal investigations and class-actions suits. Which is only fair considering that the wrongfully blamed lower-level employees – many whom made less than $15 per hour – were met with retaliation after they dared to call in to the bank’s internal ethics hotline.

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China’s Trading Halt Heard ‘Round the World; Planet Netflix; JC Penney’s for Dollars

Domino effect…

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Another day, another trading halt in China where shares once again plunged 7% – this time in just 29 minutes. The yuan dropped to its lowest level since March 2011 and it marked the second time this week that one of the world’s biggest economies took a hit like this. Naturally, this triggered global markets to reluctantly follow suit and even here in the U.S., the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq also saw drops. Not that I am trying to freak anybody out, but the last time the Dow had a bad start to the New Year was back in 2008. Investors, however, are most definitely not panicked about that little parallel and expect the situation to improve…over time.  Besides, market indexes aren’t anywhere near lowish territories so experts don’t expect China’s fiscal woes to be a major issue.. well here anyway.

Gone global…

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Apparently it’s Netflix’s world and we just live in it. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told a crowd at CES, “You are witnessing the birth of a global TV network,” as he announced that the streaming video service would now be expanding to 130 more countries. The service will be available in 21 different languages and be available in a total of 190 countries in this great big world. That way, a whole new massive international audience can get to experience the joy we call ,”Orange is the New Black.” Interestingly, Netflix will not be making customized services for particular countries. Rather, it will be just one single solitary internet-based television network – one that is expected to reel in millions upon millions of new subscribers.  That, my friends, is how you conquer the world, but more importantly, Wall Street, where yesterday, shares of Netflix went up 10% on the news (though today it closed down at 114.56). Unfortunately, folks in China still have to wait – maybe forever – for the service to reach its shores lest its citizens gain inspiration from entertainment that the Chinese government might deem objectionable, incendiary or just plain rude. Other countries that wont be catching up on past seasons of “House of Cards” any time soon include North Korea, Syria and Crimea.

Bah-humbug…

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Macy’s did not have a very merry Christmas as evidenced by its disappointing sales during the most important spending season of the year. Two factors seem to have contributed to these results: unseasonably warm weather kept shoppers from loading up on cold-weather gear; and a strong dollar that kept overseas tourists’ wallets at bay. And when a retailer posts less than impressive earnings during the most critical time of the year, it usually means a forecast trimming is in the works – which is exactly what Macy’s did. To add insult to fiscal injury, the retailer will be laying off close to 5,000 employees and closing 40 stores. Oddly enough, embattled retailer JC Penney saw a sales surge this holiday season of close to 4%. A big shout out for this fiscally pleasant surprise goes to amped up online efforts which helped lift shares by 2.4%. Now, if JC Penney can recoup that 8% decline that it took over that past year…well, wouldn’t that be grand.