Corporate Notes A Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy merger, announced from Ciba headquarters in Basel, Switzerland on March 7, was approved by shareholders of both firms on April 24. The new firm, under the new name of Novartis, will become the third largest drug firm in the U.S. after Merck and Glaxo Wellcome. For medical meeting planners, the immediate and obvious effect will be the elimination of one more source of educational grants for continuing medical education (CME). It also puts the future of the Ciba and Sandoz professional relations and meeting planning staffs into question, since the merger announcement indicated significant staff reductions. Both companies have been active corporate members of the Alliance for CME.

Aetna, the Hartford, CT&shyp;based insurance giant, and U.S. Healthcare, the Blue Bell, PA health maintenance organization, announced their intention to merge on April 1. Together, the two companies provide healthcare services to 23 million people, or one in every 12 Americans, and will be the leading provider of managed healthcare services with 10.3 million managed care members. The Aetna and U.S. Healthcare businesses will be wholly owned subsidiaries of Aetna Inc., with each subsidiary maintaining its current name. Aetna Chairman Ronald E. Compton will be chairman and CEO of the new company. U.S. Healthcare Chairman Leonard Abramson will join Aetna's board of directors and serve as a strategic consultant to Compton. James W. McLane, CEO of Aetna Health Plans, will be leaving the company.

The outlook for Aetna as a provider of educational grants for medical meetings is unclear, but some sense of its direction can be gleaned from the merger announcement's expectation of "enhanced revenues through additional HMO membership and cross-selling opportunities with specialty health and group life, plus reductions in medical and operating expenses." Anyone who thinks that sounds a lot like "sell policies, cut medical services," raise your hand.

Here are three companies that may be looking for booth space in your meeting's exhibit hall: GE Medical Systems, Picker International, and Comdisco, Inc. The common thread: All three are in the used medical equipment business. Once the province of third-world countries, used medical equipment sales are booming, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. Nashville-based Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation, the nation' biggest hospital chain, finds the prospect of obtaining magnetic resonance imagers or cardiac catheterization lab devices at 50 cents on the dollar an enticing one. There is much grist here for the education mill, as well: The Food and Drug Administration is reportedly playing catch-up in regulating the industry, and healthcare professionals responsible for the purchase of such equipment are unsure about liability issues.

A seminar on the ins and outs of used medical equipment purchases, perhaps led by hospital administrators who have experience in the practice, might draw well. To find speakers on safety issues related to used medical equipment, contact ERCI, a nonprofit medical safety testing firm based in Plymouth Meeting, PA, at (610) 825-6000, or send e-mail to ecri@hslc.org.

Notable Meetings The University of Arizona College of Medicine and Canyon Ranch, the upscale resort/spa in Tucson, AZ, have entered into a unique partnership. The college is holding a series of week-long programs on specific health concerns, including asthma, arthritis, women's health, and heart disease. The sessions are accredited for up to 27 hours of Category 1 CME, but are open to the public and are being marketed by Canyon Ranch. In addition to participating in classes, physicians meet with Canyon Ranch's staff physicians for roundtable discussions on integrating preventive medicine techniques into their practices. For more information on Canyon Ranch CME programs, call (800) 726-3335.

Once again, a professional trade show organizer and a medical association have joined forces to present a medical trade show with an educational component aimed at the managed care market. This time, the organizer is SEMCO, an Atlanta-based firm that operates the Medtrade show, an event that began life as a home healthcare show and has grown to include almost 2,000 healthcare product companies at more than 1,000 exhibits. The medical association is the Case Management Society of America, owned by Mosby Press. When the show opens at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on November 13, it will have more than 850,000 square feet of exhibits and a Managed Care Conference at which continuing education credits will be available for physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. Within Medtrade will be another trade show, Comtrade, for computer and communications companies selling to the healthcare market.

The secret of Medtrade's success? "Our job is to make it as easy for the attendees and exhibitors to get together and do business as possible," says Mark Simmerling, the show's organizer. "We have the luxury of not being affiliated with a specialty society. We can follow our market wherever it goes-we have to, to survive." With 50 percent attendance growth since 1991, Medtrade's survival seems assured.

How does the American Medical Joggers Association (North Hollywood, CA) attract hundreds of physicians to its annual conference in Boston? By getting them into the Boston Marathon, that's how. The qualifying time threshold is lowered for attendees in return for medical services the association provides on race day, according to Judith Babb, conference organizer. Approximately 270 California physicians participated in this year's centennial race.

Continuing with the sports theme, the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) will hold a course on "Foot, Ankle, and Knee Injuries in the High Performance Athlete" in Atlanta during the Olympic trials, June 13 to 15. In addition to an all-star lineup of orthopedic specialists, attendees will hear from world-class athlete and network sports announcer Carol Lewis and 100-meter world record&shyp;holder Leroy Burrell. Tickets to the Olympic trials will be available through AOFAS. For information, contact Diane Fields at (800) 235-4855.