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Business briefs

For Wednesday, April 20, 2011

By Star-Advertiser Staff and News Services


Medicine spending slows

TRENTON, N.J. >> The national tab for prescription drugs grew last year at the second-slowest pace ever measured by a prominent health data firm. Americans and their insurers spent $307.4 billion on prescription drugs in 2010, up just 2.3 percent from the previous year, according to data released yesterday by IMS Health Inc. That’s a slowdown from a 5.1 percent increase in 2009. Earlier in the decade, annual increases went as high as 13 percent.

L.A. firm takes big stake in ClearFuels

A mainland clean energy company said it plans to increase its ownership in Aiea-based ClearFuels Technology Inc. to 95 percent from the 25 percent it now holds.

Los Angeles-based Rentech Inc. said yesterday it will merge one of its subsidiaries with ClearFuels, with the latter continuing as the surviving company. The transaction is the result of an option agreement the two companies signed in September. Rentech said the merger is expected to close within a month. The companies said they expect no interruption of the proj­ect and technology development activities of ClearFuels.

Privately held ClearFuels is developing potential biomass-to-energy proj­ects in Hawaii, the southeastern U.S. and internationally. ClearFuels is in active negotiations with Hawaiian Electric Co. for a long-term contract to supply biodiesel for energy generation at the utility.

Rentech's shares closed down 1 cent at $1.14 yesterday on the American Stock Exchange.

Pain Society convention set for Oahu

The American Pain Society will host its annual scientific meeting — its 31st — at the Hawai‘i Convention Center for the first time.

The May 17-19 meeting is expected to generate more than $7 million in revenue statewide and draw more than 1,500 clinicians, researchers, physicians, nurses and pharmacists to the islands.

Hotels will benefit from more than 12,000 room nights, according to the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

The Glenview, Ill.-based group, with about 2,500 members, will provide current information about the diagnosis, treatment and management of acute pain, chronic cancer and recurrent pain.

Other medical conferences at the Hawai‘i Convention Center this year include the American Psychiatric Association's 164th annual meeting, which will draw nearly 12,000 attendees May 14-18, and the American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting Oct. 22-27.

HMSA gives $82,995 for Japan relief

Hawaii Medical Service Association has donated $82,995 to Aloha for Japan.

The state's largest health insurer said yesterday its employees contributed $37,995 to the effort, with the company matching employee contributions up to $25,000. HMSA Foundation also donated $20,000.

Taco Bell beef lawsuit is dropped

LOUISVILLE, Ky. » Taco Bell declared victory yesterday after an Ala­bama-based law firm dropped its class-action lawsuit that raised a beef with the meat filling served in the fast-food chain's tacos and burritos.

The two sides differed, though, on the result of the legal battle that had put Taco Bell on the defensive, prompting the popular chain to spend millions to defend its filling.

The law firm Beasley Allen, based in Montgomery, Ala., said it dropped the lawsuit after Taco Bell made changes to its marketing and product disclosure.

Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed countered that the chain made no changes to its products or advertising and didn't discuss possible changes with the plaintiff's lawyers.

The chain said the allegations were "absolutely wrong" and that the firm voluntarily withdrew the suit.

"This is a victory for truth over fiction, and we're glad the lawyers voluntarily withdrew their case once they learned the truth," Creed said in a statement yesterday.

Taco Bell says its taco filling contains 88 percent USDA-inspected beef. The rest is water, spices and a mixture of oats, starch and other ingredients that contribute to what it calls the "quality of its product." The company said it uses no extenders to add volume to the filling.

On the Move

Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing has announced the following new counsel to the firm:
>> Sheryl L. Nicholson focuses on commercial litigation and transactions and has represented clients in some of the largest commercial cases litigated in Hawaii.
>> Robin H. Kobayashi will practice in the areas of labor, employment and corporate governance and was previously chief executive officer for Hawaii Immigrant Justice Center.
>> Judy A. Tanaka was previously a PJPN managing director and oversees commercial, real estate and construction litigation and transactions.
>> Pamela W. Bunn has experience doing appellate work, including administrative appeals, mediation and arbitration.


Whole Foods Market has named Vinny DeJohn as an assistant store team leader. His responsibilities includes assisting the leadership team with store direction, vision and store operations.


The Queen’s Medical Center has honored the following as the 2011 Ke Kauka Po‘o­kela Outstanding Physicians of the Year:
>> Dr. David Fergusson is a cardiologist at the Queen’s Medical Center.
>> Dr. Peter Halford is chief of staff of the Queen’s Medical Center.

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