Online Updates

October 5, 2007



INVESTMENTS
A surprise leader among bond funds

Investment-industry experts are scratching their heads. In a period of relatively low inflation, mutual funds that invest in inflation-protected securities are outperforming the rest of their fixed-income brethren in 2007, including the short-term, high-quality bonds that usually do very well during volatile markets. According to Morningstar.com, inflation-protected bond mutual funds have returned 5.5 percent through Sept. 14, more than double the return of bond funds in the short-term category (2.7 percent).

According to Morningstar analyst Paul Herbert, quoted in Investment-News, an industry tabloid, inflation-protected bonds broke out of the gates strong this year because there was some inflation and a general "flight to quality" precipitated by a rocky stock market. But whether the category can sustain its momentum is irrelevant, say fans of inflation-indexed bonds: They're a smart investment for anyone who wants to preserve their wealth by hedging against inflation.

PHARMA GIFTS
Tighter rules proposed on gifts to doctors

Most people won't begrudge you a free pen, but how might patients view you if they can easily find out what sorts of more costly gifts pharmaceutical companies are giving you? "Right now the public has no way to know whether a doctor's been given money that might affect prescribing habits," says Chuck Grassley. The Iowa senator, along with Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, introduced a bill on Sept. 6 that would require drug and device makers with annual gross revenues of more than $100 million to disclose how much they give to doctors through payments, gifts, honoraria, travel, and other means. If the bill passes, anything that's valued at over $25 would have to be reported. Payments would be posted on a public, searchable website under the auspices of the Secretary of HHS. Companies that fail to report can be hir with fines ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 per violation.

RX DATA
Health info companies strike back

Three companies are challenging new laws in Maine and Vermont that would set limits on how they can sell prescription drug information for marketing purposes. IMS Health, Wolters Kluwer Health, and Verispan filed lawsuits in the US District Courts for the two New England states, seeking to block enforcement of the statutes, which take effect on Jan. 1. The plaintiffs were emboldened by a District Court ruling earlier this year in New Hampshire, striking down the Granite State's law to ban data mining. (The state plans to appeal.) "The new laws in Vermont and Maine will have the same unintended consequences as the one in New Hampshire, blocking vital healthcare information from public view while doing nothing to drive down prescription drug costs," insists Randy Frankel, vice president of external affairs for IMS Health.

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