Let’s Make a Deal

By

Leonard Zwelling

            Thanks
to everyone who has called, emailed or commented on the blog. As a writer, I
just want to be read and if I am lucky, to stimulate people to think.  The over 62,000 page views the blog has
received to date suggests that the blog is succeeding. For that I am most
grateful.

            However,
the blog is really a souped up private op-ed page. Last week MD Anderson made
the real hard news with the announcement of a new partnership with Cooper
University Health Care of Camden, NJ. As is so often the case, the newspaper
story is amplified, and in the process clarified and made less clear by the
simple revealing of some of the facts of this partnership by Matthew Bin Han Ong and Paul Goldberg in
the Cancer Letter of June 21.

            The Cancer Letter reports on discussions with Dan Fontaine, the Senior Vice
President for Business Affairs and the chief regulatory officer of Anderson about
the announcement and that is where the clarity that surrounded the Chronicle’s
initial trumpeted announcement fades. The financial details of the new
partnership appear yet to be defined. Cooper already has a partnership with
another cancer center, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the only
NCI-designated cancer center in the state. This presumably gives Cooper access
to NCI trials, so what exactly is the nature of this new relationship with
Anderson? What do we get? What do they get?

            The
Cancer Letter implies (or I infer) that this New Jersey deal was similar to the
Banner deal. But several MD Anderson faculty members have moved to Phoenix to
get the Banner arrangement up and running. MD Anderson has firm control over
all appointments in the MD Anderson-Banner arrangement. Whether the Banner deal
turns out to be beneficial remains to be proven, but on the surface, the Banner
deal seems to be more in the hands of MD Anderson than this new one does.
This will likely mean the MD Anderson interests will be protected in the Banner
deal. Of course, the same could be said about the deals with Madrid and
Orlando. I still am not sure whether they were good for MD Anderson in the long
run.

            Mr.
Fontaine did say the following which should give us some hints as to what the
New Jersey partnership will mean:

1.     The
flow of funds between the institutions is still being negotiated, and
transactional documents haven’t been finalized.

2.     It’s
probably not completely accurate to say, “oh you’re just getting paid for a
relationship with MD Anderson. I really believe that it is a robust exchange of
value, including expertise about clinical trials, including expertise about
research protocol-based treatment—all of those things that go back and forth
between the two entities”.

3.     The
final deal is a work in progress.

4.     I
have no doubt that (the Camden institute) will include the Cooper name and the
MD Anderson name and be operated much as our relationship with the Banner
system.

5.     The
facility is underway, and we are targeting to making that operational in the
fall of this year with us being a part of that from day one as it moves forward.

            There
are additional quotes, but you get the drift. What? You don’t? Neither do I.

            On
the other hand, the Cancer Letter did report this:

            “A
joint federal-state investigation ensued (of Cooper’s doctors on its advisory
board referring patients to its Heart Institute). This was because Cooper
sought and received reimbursement through Medicare and Medicaid for treating
inappropriately referred patients—a violation of state and federal law. Cooper
settled for $12.6 million.”

            So
let’s review.  The finances have
not been finalized. The partnership does not yet have a name. It is not at all
clear how much influence MD Anderson physicians will have on the clinical
product of Cooper and our new partner was just fined $12.6 million for illegal
activities.

            Let’s
make a deal?  

            I
am quite sure I am missing something. I just don’t know if what I am missing is
good or bad. Please help. Write if you understand whether this was a good or
bad deal and who for.

Leonard Zwelling