In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology and life science news:

  • Red Hat expands its cloud offerings
  • New cholesterol lowering drugs hurt by prices
  • Airbnb updates its offerings
  • The EU vs. Google battle intensifies

The details:

  • Red Hat expands “cloud” play

Red Hat on Wednesday expanded its cloud offerings.

“Red Hat released today OpenStack Platform 8, providing users of its commercially supported cloud technology with new features and integrated cloud management capabilities. The OSP 8 release is also at the core of the new Dell Red Hat OpenStack Cloud Version 5.0 update debuting today, a co-engineered offering with a reference hardware architecture,” eWeek reports.

See the details at:

  • Breakthrough cholesterol drugs fizzle amid price pushback

When a powerful pair of cholesterol-lowering drugs first hit the market last summer, initial excitement in the medical community quickly turned to panic.

The new drugs promised to reduce artery-clogging cholesterol by nearly twice as much as older ones. But they came at an eye-popping price: more than $14,000 per year, compared with roughly $150 for the standard drugs.

Some experts predicted a doomsday scenario in which the two injectable drugs, Repatha and Praluent, would add a staggering $100 billion to the U.S. drug bill as doctors signed up millions of patients with elevated cholesterol. But then something unexpected happened: not much.

Caught between skeptical doctors and cost-conscious insurers, the drugs have barely sold. Sanofi reported a meager $10 million from Praluent in the last quarter, which it co-markets with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Amgen Inc. declined to break out Repatha sales.

Spending on pricey specialty drugs has doubled over the last five years to $150 billion, contributing 70 percent of the growth in U.S. medication spending since 2010, according to IMS Health. But the startlingly slow launch of Praluent and Repatha suggests insurers may have found their own formula for fighting back: proof-of-effectiveness requirements and rigorous paperwork that limits how many patients ultimately receive high-cost drugs. Experts see an escalating feud between drugmakers and insurers with little relief in sight.

“The companies think that their drug is going to save a lot of lives and payers tend to be skeptical of those claims — somewhere in the middle is the truth” says Professor Darius Lakdawalla of the University of Southern California.

Generally speaking, insurers only cover the costs of the new drugs for patients with extremely-high cholesterol caused by genetic disorders, or those with a history of heart problems and elevated cholesterol. The insurance paperwork can run several pages and often requires a detailed history of past treatments.

Caught in the middle of the coverage fight are patients who say they desperately need more options to control bad cholesterol, or LDL.

  • Airbnb adds new recommendations features

Airbnb is adding recommendations to its online accommodations service, building on its knowledge of travelers’ preferences, coupled with tips from locals.

The company, which lets out-of-town visitors find people renting out homes and rooms, says it wants to help travelers get off the beaten path by showing alternatives to well-known, often-crowded, attractions.

CEO Brian Chesky says Airbnb’s mobile apps will match travelers with hosts and neighborhoods based on their previous searches and bookings. It will also weigh their responses to questions about amenities or experiences they prefer.

The recommendations will let Airbnb show more listings outside the most-traveled neighborhoods, although visitors can still make their own selections.

Airbnb will also recommend activities, based on hosts’ tips, which Chesky says will help visitors see what it’s like to live in a city.

  • EU expands battle with Google with Android antitrust probe

The European Union is broadening its battle with Google, alleging that the technology giant rigs the global market for mobile apps by making its Androidoperating system give preferential treatment to its own products.

EU Antitrust Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Wednesday that “Google’s behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation.”

The Android operating system is designed to feature Google’s search engine, maps, Gmail, YouTube video service and other products that give the company more opportunities to sell digital ads. Device makers don’t have to use Android as Google sets it up, but European regulators are looking into complaints that the company penalizes those that deviate from Google’s favored design.

Vestager kicked off what is likely to be a protracted legal battle with a so-called Statement of Objections accusing Google it uses its high market share to force its apps on customers. Vestager said Wednesday’s move in no way prejudges the outcome of its investigation.

“It is an interim step and not the end of the road,” said Vestager.