business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

Fox Business reports that a Federal judge has approved the CVS acquisition of Aetna, a nearly $70 billion deal that has the potential to change both the retail drug and insurance businesses.

According to the story, “The merger was allowed on condition Aetna sell its Medicare prescription drug plan business to WellCare Health Plans,  Both deals have already closed.”

Fox Business writes that “U.S. District Judge Richard Leon had questioned whether the settlement did enough to protect competition and consumers in health-care markets,” but he concluded that “the health-care markets at issue in the case ‘are not only very competitive today, but are likely to remain so post-merger’,” and that the settlement "is well within the reaches of the public interest.”

Advertising Age reports that “a federal judge today ordered Anheuser-Busch InBev to remove ‘no corn syrup’ from its Bud Light packaging, handing MillerCoors another victory in its ongoing legal battle with its larger competitor.” The ruling follows a May temporary injunction “ordering Bud Light to stop running ads suggesting that corn syrup is MillerCoors’ final products, rather than simply used during the brewing process. Wednesday’s ruling now extends that preliminary injunction to packaging.”

The story notes that “Miller Lite and Coors Light both use corn syrup during the fermenting process, but MillerCoors says none of it ends up in the final product. The brewer filed its false advertising lawsuit in March, shortly after Bud Light launched its corn syrup campaign with three Super Bowl ads.”

AB InBev in a statement said: “Bud Light is brewed with no corn syrup–plain and simple. We look forward to defending our right to inform beer drinkers of this fact at trial and on appeal. MillerCoors is resisting consumer demands for transparency in the ingredients used to brew its beers, but those demands are here to stay. We will continue leading this movement in the beer industry.”

• Sears’ transformation continues.

USA Today reports that “Sears' parent company, Transformco, filed a notice Aug. 29 with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity saying it was laying off approximately 250 employees from its headquarters in Hoffman Estates.”

The move comes on the heels of the company’s decision to close dozens of stores, which follows former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert’s purchase of Sears and Kmart out of bankruptcy earlier this year.

I’ll actually give Sears this one, at least to a point. There are times when headquarters staffs have to be cut because they are not supporting stores to the degree they need to. Though I have to admit that I tend to suspect any move made by Sears, mostly because its history is so suspect.

• The Washington Post this morning reports on new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggesting that “regular consumption of soft drinks - both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened - was associated with a greater risk of all causes of death.” People who “drank two or more glasses of soft drinks per day had a higher risk of mortality than those who consumed less than one glass per month,” the research says.

This goes farther than most studies of this kind, which generally have pointed to sugary soft drinks as being the root of many health problems. Diet sodas have not been identified as a problem to the same degree.

“The results of this study are significant,” Sarah Reinhardt, lead food systems and health analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, tells the Post. “It reinforces a fact that won’t surprise anyone in the nutrition field: Processed foods loaded with artificial ingredients will never be the magic bullet to better health, no matter how low they are in sugar. Our bodies are smarter than that.”

Here’s how the Post frames the results:

“The study, one of the largest of its kind, tracked 451,743 men and women from 10 countries in Europe. It found that consumption of two or more glasses of artificially sweetened soft drinks a day was positively associated with deaths from circulatory diseases. For sugar-sweetened soft drinks, one or more glasses a day were associated with deaths from digestive diseases, including diseases of the liver, appendix, pancreas and intestines … While the 50 international researchers who conducted the study advanced no theories about the relationships observed, they encourage public health campaigns aimed at limiting the consumption of soft drinks.”
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