By Darren Schuettler,  Reuters

BANGKOK, March 14 (Reuters) - U.S. drugs giant Abbott Laboratories said it would stop launching new medicines in Thailand in protest at the army-backed government's move to override international drug patents. The decision will not affect Abbott drugs already on sale in Thailand, which declared a "compulsory licence" in January allowing it to make or buy generic versions of Abbott's Kaletra to treat HIV/AIDS.

"Thailand has chosen to break patents on numerous medicines, ignoring the patent system. As such, we've elected not to introduce new medicines there," Abbott spokeswoman Jennifer Smoter told Reuters. There was no immediate reaction from the Health Ministry, which argues it needs cheaper, copycat drugs to ensure wider access for Thailand's 63 million people, including 580,000 living with HIV/AIDS.

Activists accused Abbott of depriving Thailand's poor of lifesaving medicines, particularly a new formulation of Kaletra. "Abbott has the hubris to blacklist a courageous country like Thailand simply trying to do the right thing for its people. Astounding," Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said in a statement. The seven withdrawn drugs include the new version of Kaletra, an antibiotic, a painkiller and medicines to fight blood clots, arthritis, kidney disease and high blood pressure.

Abbott is believed to be the first pharmaceutical maker to withhold new drugs from Thailand since the government shocked drug makers late last year with its first compulsory licence, for Efavirenz, an HIV-AIDS treatment made by Merck & Co. Thailand has also issued one for Plavix, a heart disease medicine made by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis, the first time a developing nation as done so for such a treatment.

Although legal under world trade rules, the licences, which allow governments to make or buy generic versions of medicines needed for public health measures, stunned drug makers who received no prior warning. Malaysia and Indonesia were the first in Southeast Asia to issue such licences for AIDS drugs three years ago, but Thailand has gone farther in challenging Big Pharma by targeting other drugs. Health Minister Mongkol na Songkhla told Reuters last month he was studying whether to issue compulsory licences for other "essential medicines" to fight cancer, heart disease and other leading causes of death in Thailand.      
Reuters 2007

Former NBA Star Voices Support for Activist Demands for Access for Poor Countries

BROOKLYN, April 26 - Earvin "Magic" Johnson, spokesperson for Abbott Laboratories, voiced support for activist demands that Abbott cease its efforts to block generic versions of Kaletra in Thailand and other countries, at a forum sponsored by Abbott at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.

When confronted by a dozen activists holding signs that read, "Magic: Help Us Get Kaletra To Thailand" and
"Abbott's Greed Kills PWAs In Thailand," Johnson first responded by saying, "Let's give them a round of applause." When pressed about Abbott's actions, he stated, "I'm on it. I'm talking to Abbott about it."

ACTUP/NY was participating in a Global Day of Action condemning Abbott Laboratories for their recent move in Thailand to pull seven new medications from the country in retaliation to the Thai government's lawful attempts to secure access to affordable generic medicines for its citizens. AIDS activists in Thailand have called for this day of action which coincides with Abbott Laboratories April 27 shareholder meeting in Chicago. Dozens of related protests will be occurring in several countries throughout the world calling on Abbott to stop threatening the public health of Thailand.

"While Magic Johnson enjoys easy access to Abbott's lifesaving medications, countless others in need of HIV treatment across the globe are left out by Abbott's unfair practices of setting overly expensive prices and blocking legal generic production," stated Johnny Guaylupo of ACTUP/NY.

"Abbott has really exposed the depths of their greed this time as they attempt to protect their profits by resorting to blackmail that puts Thai lives in the balance. We need Magic to take a stand against his sponsor's abusive practices," said Amanda Lugg of ACTUP/NY.

"Magic Johnson was known for his gutsy play on the basketball court, but where is that courage and leadership now as people with AIDS in Thailand and around the world are being denied access to the Abbott medication he endorses?" remarked long-time ACTUP/NY member Ken Bing.


People in Dozens of Countries Around the World Demand End to Abbott's Greed

Doubts over Abbott's latest AIDS drug claim
MSF says new anti-HIV drug Aluvia unlikely be available in Thailand.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Abbott Laboratories has backed down from a high-profile confrontation with the Thai government over patent protection for a popular AIDS treatment.

Bangkok-based health activists, however, argued that Abbott's move was just another "trick" and said there was nothing to guarantee that Thais could have access to the lower-priced drugs.

Paul Cawthorne, head of mission of Doctors Without Borders in Bangkok, said Abbott had tricked the public by announcing a few weeks ago it would reduce the price for Aluvia - the latest version of its AIDS drug Kaletra - in Thailand. He said the drug was not available as it was one of seven new drugs Abbott decided not to register with the Thai government.

Abbott is to introduce Aluvia in Thailand and sell it at a discounted rate, chief executive Miles White said yesterday.

The move reverses Abbott's decision in February to withhold Aluvia from Thailand following a government announcement that it would allow sales of generic versions of Abbott's AIDS drug and other brand medicines in order to give patients access to less expensive treatment.

"In this particular case, in the name of access for patients, we offered to resubmit Aluvia at our new price, which is lower than any generic, provided they wouldn't issue a compulsory licence," White said.

As for the company's initial decision not to sell its new drugs in the country, he explained: "What motivated us was concern that compulsory licensing would be abused ever more widely, using HIV as an excuse."

Jennifer Smoter, a spokeswoman for Abbott, claimed Thailand's Health Ministry had expressed interest in the offer but that no resolution had been reached.

Abbott's move doesn't affect its decision to withhold six other drugs from Thailand.

Mongkol na Songkla, the public health minister, was not available for comment yesterday.

Cawthorne suggested that the government should not stop the compulsory licensing process, saying that it was the key for Thais to access high-quality drugs at a cheap price. Cawthorne said he did not believe the company would actually register the drugs in Thailand.

"We will not believe it until we see patients taking the medicine," he said.

The global pharmaceutical industry increasingly relies on emerging markets such as Thailand to compensate for slowing growth in home markets.

"The symbolic implications are massive," says Gustav Ando, an analyst for Global Insight, an economic-forecasting firm in the US.

"The drug industry is very well aware of what this means. If one country does it, that means any country can do it. This is the front-line battle at the moment. It's not going to stop there."

Illinois-based Abbott tried to defy Thailand's initiative in February, refusing to sell the country seven of its newest drugs.

Abbott received some support from other drug makers, who argued that Thailand's decision to withdraw patent protection for some of their products undermined their ability to fund new research that ultimately benefits all patients.

But the unprecedented move appeared to backfire, prompting consumer boycotts in Thailand, bringing human-rights advocates out in support of Thailand's policy and provoking protests from some Abbott shareholders who argued Abbott should sell its latest drugs in Thailand.

Thailand is a fast-growing market for Abbott, generating about US$30 million (Bt978 million) a year in sales for the company, according to a person familiar with the company's sales. Abbott declined to specify the size of its market in Thailand.

In backing down, Abbott is joining Merck and Co and Sanofi-Aventis SA, which have already cut the price of their Aids and heart-disease drugs in the hope of dissuading Thailand from switching to less expensive alternatives.

Thailand could still choose to import generic drugs to replace Abbott's, however, just as it is now using generic versions of Merck's Aids drug Efavirenz, despite Merck's own move to lower prices.

Abbott Laboratories had raised by 400% the price of its protease inhibitor Norvir,
a move that caused furor among AIDS advocates, doctors and patients.


ACT UP  ZAP  February 19, 2004

ACT UP Storms an Abbott Drug Manufacturing Facility
Protestors Denounce 400% Price Hike on Key AIDS Drug

Members of ACT UP/NY and ACT UP/Philadelphia (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) stormed the Whippany, NJ manufacturing facility of Abbott Laboratories this morning, chanting "Abbott Lies, We Die: Drop the price of Norvir!" The activists showered the facility with "blood money" and left a funeral wreath in protest of deaths that will occur due to increasing pharmaceutical price-gouging.

Abbott recently increased the price of its AIDS drug Norvir (ritonavir) by 400%, even though the drug was approved over eight years ago and has garnered over $1.3 billion in sales to date. The drug, too toxic to take at full dose, is used at 1/3 to 1/6 of its original dose to boost the effect of other protease inhibitors, often in people who are treating drug resistant HIV. Because the price of Kaletra (Abbott's own protease inhibitor that also contains Norvir), is unaffected by the price hike many leaders in the AIDS community, including hundreds of HIV physicians, charge the price hike is simply a way for the company to gain market share. Currently competing protease inhibitors are priced in the same range as Kaletra, but with the price hike will be much more expensive.

"Abbott's decision to raise the price of Norvir will cost lives around the country. Public healthcare and private insurance systems will be further undermined by this hike," said Mark Milano of ACT UP/NY. Last year AIDS
Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), which provide drugs to uninsured or underinsured people with HIV, in seven states were forced to cap enrollment. Some patients died while on waiting lists to enter the programs. After intense pressure from activists, Abbott announced it will not charge ADAPs more, but the hike will exacerbate ADAP cash flow problems since ADAPs purchase the drug from local pharmacies at the full price and only months later are reimbursed through a cumbersome rebate system. Abbott continues to demand the higher price from private insurers, causing individuals to reach their spending caps sooner and leading to untenable co-pays in some cases.

The Norvir price hike makes it the highest-priced HIV drug if used at full dose: over $45,000. This hike will also affect the price of drugs in development that rely on Norvir for boosting. Tipranavir, being developed by Boehringer Ingelheim, requires boosting with Norvir of up to 400 mg. The Norvir price hike will send its price above that of Fuzeon, the most expensive antiretroviral drug ever developed (over $20,000 a year).

Abbott's decision to maximize profit has been harshly criticized by the HIV Medicine Association. Over 300 HIV specialists have announced a boycott of Abbott products across all disease areas, designed to pressure Abbott to roll back the price of Norvir.

photos available at


·  Abbott recently increased the cost of its protease inhibitor Norvir by over 400% (5 times!)

·  Norvir is the only drug used to help boost levels (and effectiveness) of other PIs.

·  This price increase will double the cost of some PI therapies.

·  Abbott is limiting treatment options for people with AIDS -- all to protect Abbott's market share for Kaletra!

·  Doctors in the US and Europe have demanded that Abbott rescind this outrageous price increase, and are threatening to boycott anything-Abbott until the company changes its mind.


Phone and fax "zaps" have historically been a successful direct action strategy to mobilize thousands of people with the use of modern technology. Zaps have been successful in AIDS actions to get the message across quickly and effectively, communicating to corporate bureaucrats, and spreading the word to thousands of people.  see more


CALL NOW:  (847) 937-6100    FAX NOW:  (847) 938-6277

download Vulture flyer  (pdf)

further information on Price Hike (c/o AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition website)








Congratulate them for their profit-making strategies....


Abbott Park, Illinois, February 20, 2004 — The board of directors of Abbott Laboratories today increased the company's quarterly common dividend to 26 cents per share.

This marks the 321st consecutive quarterly dividend to be paid by Abbott since 1924. The cash dividend is payable May 15, 2004, to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 15, 2004.

Abbott Laboratories is a global, broad-based health care company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals, nutritionals and medical products, including devices and diagnostics. The company employs more than 70,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries. In 2003, the company's sales were $19.7 billion.
According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, "Abbott Laboratories increased Chief Executive Miles White's salary 4.5 percent and his bonus 40 percent in 2003, the company said in its annual proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. White's total pay was $3.4 million, up 20 percent from 2002. The North Chicago-based drug maker raised his salary to $1.56 million and his bonus to $1.75 million, according to the filing." The inflated compensation package comes just weeks after Abbott Lab's astounding announcement that they have increased the price of a key AIDS drug, Norvir, by 400%

also email

Miles White at
Thomas Freyman at
Richard Gonzalez at
Roxanne Austin at
Barbara Pardue at
John Leonard at
Eugene Sun at

E-mail NOW !  Tell them how you feel about this unconscionable price increase!


Jun 14, 2004

FDA Orders Abbott To Revise 'Misleading' Information on Price, Risks of Norvir in Marketing Materials

FDA regulators on Thursday ordered Abbott Laboratories to stop using in marketing materials and on its Web site misleading claims that its antiretroviral drug Norvir is the lowest-priced drug in its class, Reuters reports. In a chart intended to explain the company's 400% price increase of the drug it made in December 2003, Abbott compared the $8.57 per day cost of a 100 milligram dose of Norvir to the costs of other antiretroviral drugs, which ranged from $9.84 to $32 per day. However, FDA in a warning letter said that the comparison is "misleading" because the drug is approved only for use in doses between 300 milligrams and 600 milligrams twice a day, according to Reuters (Richwine, Reuters, 6/10). "Your cost chart raises significant public health and safety concerns because of ... the potential adverse impact these false and misleading messages may have on the HIV community by promoting a subtherapeutic dose and regimen of Norvir," the letter said. In addition, FDA said that the materials fail to state that the drug does not cure HIV, has unknown risks and does not reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. The agency also said Abbott failed to list the names of some medications from a list of drugs that cannot be taken with Norvir. Misleading material was found in two patient brochures, a wall chart and on the company's promotional Web site (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 6/11). The warning letter -- signed by Thomas Abrams, director of the FDA Division of Drug Marketing Advertising and Communications -- said that the agency would impose sanctions on the company if it failed to correct its marketing materials (Associated Press, 6/10). FDA called on the company to develop a plan to correct and circulate accurate marketing materials to those who received the misleading information. Abbott spokesperson Melissa Brotz said that the company did not intend to give false impressions about Norvir and that it would modify its marketing materials (Reuters, 6/10).

Additional Controversy
The FDA letter "escalates the controversy" surrounding the company's 400% price increase on Norvir, according to the Chicago Tribune. Abbott is facing lawsuits from AIDS advocacy and consumer groups and is being investigated by the attorneys general of Illinois and New York over the price increase (Chicago Tribune, 6/11). In addition, NIH is considering a request from the consumer group Essential Inventions for a license to produce a generic version of the drug while it is still under patent (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/28). The request claims that the drug was developed using federal funding and is being sold at an unreasonably high price (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27). Abbott says that the price increase was needed to reflect the true value of the drug and to fund future AIDS research, according to Reuters (Reuters, 6/10).


Price of AIDS Drug Intensifies Debate on Legal Imports
by GARDINER HARRIS, The New York Times, Published: April 14, 2004

The recent decision by Abbott Laboratories to quintuple the price of its crucial AIDS drug Norvir will be at the center of a federal hearing today in which AIDS groups and consumer advocates plan to argue that the government should begin allowing the import of cheaper drugs.

The hearing, which will be conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, is a result of last fall's Medicare drug legislation, in which Congress called for a general inquiry into the import question. But the escalating protest over Norvir, whose average annual dosage cost rose to about $7,800 in January from $1,500, has suddenly given the import issue unexpected urgency.

Norvir is a vital ingredient in many of the drug "cocktail" regimens prescribed for tens of thousands of AIDS patients. Abbott, which cannot raise its prices overseas where governments control drug markets, says it has had to raise prices in the United States to continue financing its research into H.I.V. and other diseases.

Norvir will also be the focus of a hearing that has yet to be scheduled. At that session, the National Institutes of Health will hear arguments over whether federal health authorities should take the unusual step of allowing generic versions of Norvir years before Abbott's patents expire.

In the cases of drugs that were developed with federal money -- as Norvir was -- the government has long held the right to demand "reasonable" prices, but has never done so.

"The taxpayers already paid for this invention, so if anything it should be cheaper in the United States," said James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, a group that pushes for lower drug prices.

Mr. Love plans to testify at today's hearing, as do a number of consumer advocates and members of AIDS groups who have protested Abbott's pricing of Norvir.

With total sales of more than $1 billion since its introduction in 1996, Norvir long ago became profitable for Abbott. But with the recent price increase, the thousands of Americans who use Norvir now pay 10 times what the price is in Europe, where drug prices are regulated under national health care plans. An annual Norvir dosage in Belgium, for example, costs less than $720 a year.

Abbott explains its pricing in this country by saying that patients are using smaller doses of Norvir than originally expected, and so the price increase is intended to recoup those losses. Because drug prices are regulated abroad, but are not in this country, American consumers often end up in effect subsidizing overseas patients.

"To continue the work in H.I.V. and other therapeutic areas, we decided the appropriate thing to do to resource our program was to make up our losses with the price increase," said Dr. John Leonard, an Abbott vice president in charge of drug development.

Support for legalizing drug imports is building in Congress. Last Thursday, Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation that would gradually legalize drug imports from Canada, Australia and Europe.

More bills are expected. Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat and the party's presumptive presidential nominee, has announced his support for import legislation -- an issue the Democrats hope to exploit in the presidential campaign.

Drug makers fiercely oppose all efforts to legalize drug imports. They argue that bringing in foreign drugs -- even when made in the companies' own factories -- would effectively import foreign price controls, while reducing profits so much that companies would be unable to continue much of their research efforts.

Federal drug officials, meanwhile, have argued that with imported drugs they cannot protect consumers from dangerous counterfeits that have none of the safeguards that cover drugs approved for sale in the United States.

But import advocates say that legalizing drug imports is the only way to make medicines affordable.

All sides have something to say about Norvir, which has quite suddenly become a touchstone in these swirling debates.

"Norvir is sort of a nexus of all the bad practices that all the drug companies use," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. "Abbott should understand that what they're doing invites scrutiny and change."

In 1996, Norvir became the second marketed protease inhibitor, a class of compounds crucial to most AIDS drug regimens. The drug's introduction followed an eight-year research effort at Abbott that began with a grant from the National Institutes of Health, according to John Erickson, the former chief of Abbott's AIDS drug research program.

"The grant was critical in allowing us to make the rapid progress that we made," said Dr. Erickson, who is now president of Sequoia Pharmaceuticals in Gaithersburg, Md.

Researchers soon discovered that Norvir, in small doses, had a unique ability to enhance the effectiveness of nearly all protease inhibitors. So even as other companies introduced newer drugs with fewer side effects than Norvir, the older drug became widely used as an adjunct.

Matt Sharp, an AIDS patient in Chicago, takes Norvir in relatively high doses along with an experimental drug from Boehringer Ingelheim. Because he is participating in a clinical trial, his medicine is free. But once the trial ends, Mr. Sharp said that he worried about how he would pay for his medicines.

Many AIDS groups have for years resisted criticizing drug makers' pricing decisions because of their intense interest in encouraging more discoveries. "Our lives depend on future research," said Lei Chou, the director of the Access Project, an AIDS information clearinghouse in New York City.

But Abbott's surprise decision regarding Norvir, which it announced in December, led to cries of outrage from AIDS groups across the country, Mr. Chou said.

Cesar Portillo, a spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest nonprofit provider of H.I.V./AIDS medical care in the country, said that Abbott's decision would result in even more patients having to join waiting lists for care.

"To take a drug that was approved in the mid-1990's and increase its price by 400 percent to meet some marketing strategy is outrageous," Mr. Portillo said.

An Abbott spokeswoman noted that the company had not raised the price it charges publicly financed AIDS assistance programs. But Lynda Dee, a member of the Maryland AIDS Drug Assistance Program advisory committee, said that many assistance programs not only provide drugs directly to low-income patients, but they reimburse drug co-payments to patients with private insurance. As Norvir's price rises, those co-payments will probably go up, too, she said.

"Nobody's saying they shouldn't have a reasonable profit, but to raise a drug's price like this seven years after they've already made a fortune is unconscionable," Ms. Dee said. "Nothing has united the AIDS community like this in years."

Some physicians who treat patients with H.I.V. have banded together to urge their colleagues to avoid Abbott medicines when possible. "If there is a choice in medicines, we are urging doctors not to choose Abbott drugs," said Howard Grossman, an internist in New York City who is leading the boycott effort. "In H.I.V., unfortunately, Abbott has a monopoly. But in other areas, it doesn't."

That Norvir was discovered with public funds only fuels the debate. Mr. Love has petitioned the National Institutes of Health to take advantage of the fine print included in grant bequests that allows the federal government to insist upon "reasonable" prices for discoveries made with federal money. These provisions have rarely been invoked by federal health authorities, who fear any effort on their part to control drug prices would lead drug companies to abandon collaborations with federal health agencies.

Six members of the House, most of them political liberals including the Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Henry A. Waxman of California, recently signed a letter to Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, asking him to support the petition.

Yesterday, John Burklow, a spokesman for N.I.H., said that the agency decided "to provide a venue for public input on this issue," although the timing and format of that input is still being discussed.

Alan Holmer, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry's trade association, said that neither legalized drug imports nor government price controls would help AIDS patients.

"The cost of AIDS medicines today is what funds the research for the better treatments and cures for tomorrow," Mr. Holmer said. "It's true that other developed countries are free-riding on American research and we need to address that, particularly in trade agreements."

Today's meeting will be conducted between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the Natcher Auditorium at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

MAKING TOP DOLLARS    The New York Times   April 13, 2004
Many prescription drugs sold in the United States are priced much higher than in most other industrial countries.
How much companies receive for one-month supplies of each drug

Daily dosage
(200 mg)
(20 mg)
(75 mg)
(10 mg)
Heart disease

U.S. (CVS*)
New Zealand

*Retail price from a store in Washington.   N/A = not available
Sources: Essential Inventions;;

21 Apr 2004


AIDS researchers to Abbott: Norvir price increase cannot be tolerated

Physicians and researchers from the HIV Outpatient Study (HOPS), a diverse
multi-center national research collaborative, voiced their opposition to
Abbott Laboratories increase in the price of Norvir, in an open petition to
Abbott CEO Miles White and vice-president, John Leonard.

The HOPS investigators agreed that the Novir price increase was
unprecedented, unethical and threatens access to care across the United
States. In the letter, the investigators state that Abbott's pledge to
freeze the price of Novir to publicly-funded drug programs failed to address
the full impact of the policy, calling the Novir price increase highly
injurious to the US HIV treatment and research community.

In previous statements, Abbott has characterized the physicians who oppose
the price increase as an insignificant minority. Dr. Frank Palella of
Northwestern University, Chicago, countered this belief and stated, "As
primary care providers for a large and demographically diverse group of
HIV-infected Americans, we feel compelled to speak out on their behalf. It
is unconscionable that the dramatic and unjustified increase in Norvir
pricing go unprotested by the

HIV caregiving community. Let us think about the possible implications of
the measure that Abbott Labs has taken. Not only does this abrupt cost

comprise a potential barrier to vital drug access for a group of individuals
who, as a group, tend to be resource-poor, it also sets an ominous

For the sake of those who depend upon us and who often cannot speak for
themselves let our unified message be clear: This cannot be tolerated."

The HOPS investigators called on Abbott executives to strongly reconsider

Norvir price increase and to begin productive discussions with both patient
and medical communities about HIV drug pricing.


21 Apr 04

HOPS Investigator Statement Regarding NORVIR Price Increase:

We the undersigned members of the HIV Outpatient Study (HOPS) group affirm
that Abbott Laboratories recent increase in the price of ritonavir (NORVIR)

Unprecedented in the history of the pharmaceutical industry
Threatens patient access to care
Highly injurious to the US HIV treatment and research community, despite
pledges to freeze the NOVIR price to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program

We ask Miles White, CEO and John Leonard, Vice-President of Abbott
Laboratories to:

Strongly reconsider the price increase of NOVIR
Enter substantive multilateral discussions with community and professional
leaders regarding pricing


Jack Fuhrer, MD
SUNY-Stony Brook,
New York

Kenneth Greenberg, DO
Rose Medical Center, University of

John Hammer, MD
Rose Medical Center,
University of Colorado

Scott Holmberg, MD
Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention,

Joseph Marzouk, MD
Oakland, California

Anne Moorman, RN
Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention,

Richard Novak, MD
University of Illinois

Frank Palella, MD
University, Illinois

Ellen Tedaldi, MD
Temple University,

Jonathon Uy, MD
University of

Douglas Ward, MD
Washington DC

Bienvenido Yangco, MD
Tampa, Florida

Benjamin Young, MD PhD
Rose Medical Center, University of

Price of AIDS drug soars fivefold
By Carol M. Ostrom,  Seattle Times staff reporter   Monday, January 05, 2004

A huge price increase for a key HIV/AIDS drug has taken patients by surprise, bewildered pharmacists and prompted a cadre of angry doctors to fire off a protest to the pharmaceutical company.

Pete Widowitz, an AIDS patient who has used Norvir successfully since the mid-1990s, discovered the price increase last month when his pharmacist called about a refill Widowitz had phoned in.

Widowitz pays for the medications and then is reimbursed by his insurance company. So the pharmacist wanted him to know that his cost for Norvir, one of several drugs he takes, had increased from $665 per month to more than $3,200 — nearly five times.

About 20,000 HIV/AIDS patients nationwide use Norvir, most in small doses with other medications, said a spokeswoman for Abbott Laboratories, the maker of Norvir, which came onto the market in 1996. Like Widowitz, many patients live on limited incomes and are fearful that this price increase will trigger larger insurance premiums or closure of public programs that subsidize medications.

Abbott's move has mobilized AIDS activists around the country and, some say, the world.

"This is an international issue now," said Fred Schaich, president of the International Foundation for Alternative Research on AIDS (IFARA). Schaich said AIDS activists in many countries are organizing to put pressure on Abbott, which says the price increase was necessary to help fund creation of other drugs for AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS.

Locally, about 30 doctors and other health providers who care for HIV/AIDS patients have protested to Abbott, a well-established pharmaceutical firm headquartered in Illinois. They warned that the "unconscionable price increase" for the drug will have "long-term serious consequences."

"We view this as very unethical," said Dr. Rob Killian, a Seattle family physician who signed the letter. "Not in my 15-year history have I seen anything like this — for a drug out for years, to increase the price this much."

Gaetano Forte, head pharmacist at Cherry Street Pharmacy on Capitol Hill, said he also had never before seen a price increase of that magnitude. "It was very upsetting to everyone. We all feel terrible about this, and we don't understand why a drug company would do something like this."

Abbott spokeswoman Laureen Cassidy said the higher price helps pay to develop new drugs and new formulations of existing drugs. "This is about preserving patient choice," she said.

For example, the company is now developing new versions of HIV/AIDS drugs that don't require refrigeration, important in the developing world, Cassidy said. Abbott provides Norvir at cost in Africa, according to its Web site.

"There is an escalating cost for bringing new drugs to market for the world, both domestically and for developing countries, and Abbott has been very much a part of the solution, including increasing access initiatives in the developing world," Cassidy said.

The new price also better reflects current market value of Norvir, which is now typically taken as a smaller-dose "booster drug" in combination with other, newer medications, she said.

Cassidy said public programs providing assistance to AIDS patients will be protected from the price increase until June 2005. Nationwide, about half of the patients taking the drug get help through state Medicaid or an AIDS Drug Assistance Program, she said. Abbott also is enlarging its patient-assistance program, which allows people without insurance to get the drugs for free, she said.

The company's reassurances, however, left some local officials unconvinced.

"While we will be sheltered (from the increase), we won't be sheltered very long," said Jack Jourden, director of the state Department of Health office that supervises the state's assistance program. The price increase, he said, "doesn't make sense to us."

Patients outside the program, particularly those who pay percentage co-pays on drugs, may be drastically affected, Jourden said.

The Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, Jourden said, has asked Gov. Gary Locke to protest the price increase directly to Abbott. Locke's office said the request is under review.

Dr. Brad Roter, a consultant to the HIV Early Intervention Program — this state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which helps patients with drug costs and insurance premiums — said the increase may cause a serious cash-flow problem in some states. Washington and many other states pay the new price upfront and then get the difference back as a rebate from the manufacturer.

The state's Medicaid program paid about $329,000 last year for Norvir for 244 patients, said Jim Stevenson, spokesman for the Medical Assistance Administration of the state Department of Social and Health Services.

The price increase has inflamed simmering anger about drug pricing among doctors, patients and AIDS activists.

Norvir, the brand name for ritonavir, is one of the early protease inhibitors, drugs that in the mid-'90s changed AIDS from a certain death sentence to a chronic disease for many patients. The medications drastically reduce virus levels by curtailing viral replication.

Today, Norvir is used mostly as a "booster" drug for other, newer-generation HIV/AIDS drugs — many of them made by Abbott's competitors.

It's now very unusual to use any other protease inhibitor without Norvir, said Dr. Peter Shalit, Widowitz's doctor, "because they just work so much better with them."

About 80 percent of the patients taking Norvir, said Cassidy, the Abbott spokeswoman, take only one or two pills daily, instead of the 12 per day that used to be a typical dose.

A daily dose of 12 pills used to cost about $20, Cassidy said. Now, even with the higher cost per pill, a typical daily dose of one pill costs about $8.50, and a daily dose of two pills about $17. "It's well below what most protease inhibitors are priced at; it's the lowest-priced protease inhibitor, even with the price increase."

But if patients were taking the old typical dose — the one Widowitz was on — the cost would be more than $100 per day, or about $38,000 per year.

Abbott is pricing Norvir as though it is a "full component" in the drug cocktail, complained Shalit. "But it's not being used for its activity against the virus — it's used as a booster for the other drugs."

While Abbott vigorously denies it, Shalit and others believe the Norvir price increase was aimed at Abbott's competition. In essence, Shalit said, increasing Norvir's price raises the cost of taking Abbott's competitors' drugs used in combination therapy. That could push patients toward Abbott's newer drug, Kaletra, a combination drug with Norvir built in. With the Norvir price increase, Kaletra's competition has become more expensive than Kaletra, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000.

In their letter to Abbott, the local doctors also expressed worry that the increased cost of Norvir would have a chilling effect on development of other drugs designed to work with its boosting power; at least one such drug is now being tested in Germany.

Shalit and some other local doctors said they're now going to try to get patients off the Norvir-boosted regimens, if they can do it without compromising their patients' health. "In most cases, I can't get people off it, but I can reduce doses," Shalit said.

Widowitz, who was taking 12 pills of Norvir daily, switched a few weeks ago to another regimen that requires only one dose a day.

Is it working? "I don't know," he said. "It's too early to tell."

Doctors and pharmacists say HIV/AIDS drug therapies are very individualized — what works for one person may not for another, and some tolerate side effects of one drug but not another. So finding a combination that works therapeutically and is also tolerable is sometimes difficult — in some patients, impossible.

Widowitz says he trusts Shalit implicitly. But he knows firsthand how tricky medications can be for someone with AIDS. It took him about a year to get used to Norvir, he said, and it was difficult to tolerate its side effects.

Still, he did it, and the drug kept him alive. "A lot of people weren't able to do it," said Widowitz, who keeps a file folder of obituaries done on friends. "Some people couldn't find anything, and they just died."

Widowitz says he's lucky because his private insurance, which now costs $875 per month, will cover the drug. But he worries that the huge price increase will affect premiums, already steeply escalating. Unlike some of his friends, he has an insurance policy — no longer sold — that doesn't require him to pay a percentage of drug costs once he has paid his deductible.

"There are people way worse off than me," says Widowitz, 59, a former computer-project manager. "They're really going to be hurt."

Forte, the pharmacist, said he was bewildered by the company's actions.

"I know there is capitalism and free enterprise and all that — everybody has a right to make a profit — but isn't this like during a national disaster charging $20 for a gallon of water or something?"

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or

Doctors boycott Abbott over price hike for AIDS drug

February 11, 2004

Chicago Sun Times

Anger over Abbott Laboratories' recent hike of more than 400 percent in the price of its HIV drug Norvir has prompted physicians to launch a boycott against the North Chicago-based pharmaceutical giant.

HIV doctors meeting at a medical conference in San Francisco on Tuesday formally announced the grassroots boycott, which includes 200 leading HIV physicians from around the country, including doctors in Illinois.

The physicians have agreed to:

* Not participate in any new Abbott-sponsored clinical trials or studies.

* Consider other HIV treatment options when medically appropriate, but continue to prescribe Abbott HIV medications when in the best interest of patients.

* Extend the boycott to other Abbott products such as antibiotics, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular drugs and nutrition products including antibiotics Biaxin, Erythromycin, Prevacid and Ensure among others.

* Resign from all Abbott advisory boards and lecture faculties.

* Ban Abbott representatives, commercial or medical, from their offices.

* Encourage other physicians to join in the boycott.

"A 400 percent increase in the price of an already approved and long-used drug is unethical," said Dr. Benjamin Young, an HIV specialist at Rose Medical Center in Denver who is among physicians participating in the boycott and who called on Abbott to rescind the price increase.

Abbott increased the price of Norvir from $1.71 for a daily pill to $8.57 in December. The company said it hiked the drug, which has been on the market since 1996, because its value has increased and to support research and development to improve HIV treatment.

Norvir, initially part of an early arsenal to treat AIDS as a stand-alone medication, has been found to be more effective as a booster that makes other HIV medicines work better. It is a key component in so-called AIDS-fighting cocktails that include medicines from Abbott competitors.

Abbott representatives said the drug has long been priced below other drugs in its class and remains so. The daily cost of other commonly used drugs in the class range between $9.84 to $32, according to information supplied by Abbott.

But critics have argued the Norvir price increase is designed to steer more patients to Abbott's next-generation HIV drug Kaletra, which entered the market in 2000. The hike in Norvir's cost makes some competitors' drug cocktails that use it more expensive than Kaletra, which costs $18.78 a day.

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, which has met with the company over the increase, voiced fears that the Norvir price increase will affect patient access to current and future therapies that require Norvir and hurt future pricing negotiations for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, putting treatment further out of reach for many.

The group and other AIDS activists and physicians also worry that Abbott's action will negatively influence the pricing patterns of other makers of HIV and AIDS medicines. It joined others, including the Chicago Department of Public Health, in asking Abbott to put a moratorium on the price increase.

"We hope they'll reconsider what they've done," said Mark Shaug, executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago."

"This is just a manifestation of corporate greed," said Dr. Daniel S. Berger, who runs the largest private HIV treatment center in Chicago.

Berger, also clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, welcomed the boycott. He said when he has other HIV treatment options to Abbott products he will recommend them to patients when it's in their best interest. He said he'll do likewise with other Abbott products, such as antibiotics.

"I don't know how else to give them feedback," he said.

Abbott doesn't plan to rescind the price increase, said Dr. John Leonard, vice president of global pharmaceutical development at Abbott. He said that to do so would undermine the development of better HIV treatments in the future.

He said the company has taken action to address concerns, which include permanently freezing the cost of the drug to AIDS Drug Assistance programs and making Norvir available for free to patients without insurance regardless of income.

"No patient should go without," he said.

Regarding the boycott, he said he met with some of the grassroots leaders to hear their concerns Tuesday.

"There's a very small group of doctors who are pursuing this action," he contended, noting they represent fewer than 2 percent of physicians who treat AIDS patients.

* Norvir is one of a group of drugs knows as protease inhibitors that are used to treat HIV.
* The drug helps decrease the amount of HIV in a patient's blood, as well as increase the amount of helpful T-cells.
* Abbott in December raised the price of Norvir from $1.71 for a daily pill to $8.57.
* Typical dosage is two capsules daily, and is usually taken with other medicines as a drug 'cocktail.'

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report

Friday, December 19, 2003

Drug Access Abbott Increases Price of Norvir 400%; Increase Causes 'Furor' Among AIDS Advocates

Abbott Laboratories has raised by 400% the U.S. wholesale price of its protease inhibitor Norvir, a move that has caused "furor" among AIDS advocates, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company earlier this month told doctors, AIDS advocates and pharmacies that it was increasing the wholesale price of Norvir -- which is known generically as ritonavir -- from $54 per month to $265 per month in order to "better reflect the drug's importance in treating AIDS" and recoup research and development costs that the company incurred when improving the drug, according to the Journal. Norvir is commonly used in small doses to "boost" the effectiveness of some antiretroviral drug combinations, the Journal reports. Therefore, the price increase would "sharply" raise the price of several combination drug regimens, which normally cost between $800 and $1,300 a month, according to the Journal.

Shifting Tactics?

Critics say that the move is intended to push doctors away from prescribing Norvir as a booster to drug regimens and switch patients to the company's newer antiretroviral drug, Kaletra. Kaletra is a combination drug that contains Norvir and another protease inhibitor, which is known generically as lopinavir. Norvir is commonly used to boost the performance of other protease inhibitors, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb's Reyataz or GlaxoSmithKline's Lexiva, both Kaletra competitors. The price increase would cause the cost of a combination regimen including Norvir and Reyataz or Lexiva, which cost $684 and $480 a month wholesale, respectively, to become "far costlier" than a regimen involving the two-drug Kaletra, which costs $580 a month wholesale, according to the Journal. AIDS specialists say the increase could cause insurers to encourage patients to use Kaletra by requiring doctors to obtain special permission to use the more expensive combination regimens including Norvir, or charge higher copayments for patients taking the more expensive regimens. The price increase will not affect government programs such as Medicaid, community clinics or AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which collectively account for the majority of Norvir prescriptions written in the United States. Abbott denies that the price increase is designed to encourage patients to switch to Kaletra, saying that the increase reflects "a long-overdue adjustment after years of being priced below other protease inhibitors," according to the Journal (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 12/19).


Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said that Kaletra is still priced the same, adding, "This is purely a marketing ploy to push for a larger market share for Kaletra by driving providers and patients to this cheaper Abbott combination therapy and the HIV community as a whole should unite and speak out against Abbott's bald-faced greed" (AHF release, 12/16). Critics of the price increase also say Abbott's claims that the increase reflects a need to recoup research and development costs are false because the drug has been on the market for seven years and has "enjoyed a relatively long product life compared with most AIDS drugs," according to the Journal (Wall Street Journal, 12/19). The HIV Medicine Association on Thursday sent a letter to Abbott urging the company to reconsider the price increase, saying, "[W]e are alarmed by your decision to raise the cost of protease inhibitor regimens to the point where many people who need these life-saving drug combinations will struggle to pay for them or won't have access to them at all" (HIVMA release, 12/18). Abbott acknowledges that its decision to raise Norvir's price "has set off a storm of protest," according to the Journal. "It's a decision that we did not take lightly, which is why we reached out to (AIDS groups) so proactively," Abbott spokesperson Melissa Brotz said. However, Bill Arnold, chair of the ADAP Working Group, which helps advocate for more ADAP funding, said that "people will be livid about that no matter what" (Wall Street Journal, 12/19).

Abbott Labs announced a price increase on their protease inhibitor Norvir effective December 3, 2003. The price has been increased from a cost of roughly $250 per bottle to now nearly $1200 per bottle. According to Abbott, this price increase can be explained in 2 ways. 1) Norvir has not had a substantial price increase in several years. 2) Abbott's newer drug, Kaletra, is still priced the same, and is the least exensive protease inhibitor per dose currently on the market.

Given that many physicians are now dosing Norvir as a boosting agent, in reality what Abbot has done is price Norvir to generate the same dollar profit per 30 day prescription that they would have normally gotten per 120 capsule bottle. By their own statements regarding pricing, Kaletra, which has ritonivir, or Norvir, as one of it's ingredients, did NOT suffer a price increase. This would lead one to assume, given the company's further comments about the per dose pricing of Kaletra, that this is purely a marketing ploy to push for a larger market share for Kaletra, and also to greatly profitize from the boosted regimens that Norvir is now a part of when coupled with drugs from other competing pharmaceutical companies. Abbott alleges that there was no price increase to ADAP or their 340b, public health pricing, or any other government funded purchasing. This indicates that there is no actual increase in production or manufacturing cost, but merely a profit move by Abbott who's cost will be paid by the consumer and the insurance companies. This is an outrage and a slap in the face to the HIV community as a whole. I would encourage you to use this information and post a story so that everyone can be made aware of Abbott's latest tactics. Thank you.    --from an email posting

Abbott raises price of ritonavir (Norvir) by almost 500% in US

Editorial, The Center for AIDS (12/15/03)

In a move that startled healthcare professionals and community members

alike, Abbott pharmaceuticals announced a price increase of almost 500% for

its protease inhibitor ritonavir (Norvir). Norvir is widely being used as a

pharmacokinetic "booster" for other protease inhibitors, including recently

approved drugs such as fosamprenavir (Lexiva) and atazanavir (Reyataz).

Boosting protease inhibitors makes them more potent, a particular

consideration for treatment-experienced or "salvage" patients with few or no

treatment options left. The price increase went into effect on December 3,

2003-two days after World AIDS Day. Surprisingly, the price of another

Abbott drug, Kaletra (itself Norvir-boosted protease inhibitor) has stayed

the same, providing an unquestionable economic advantage to choosing Kaletra

over other boosted protease inhibitor regimens, which may now increase in

price by as much as double. Although negotiated prices for US government

AIDS Drug Assistance Programs are locked in by law into 2005, prices

negotiated after that time will be subject to increases.

Indeed, Abbott has modified its patient assistance program so that patients

needing Norvir can more easily get the drug. However, this does not address

the more important question of what will happen if third-party insurers are

faced with footing the bill for boosted regimens that are much more expense

than Kaletra. This has implications for salvage therapy research as well

because potential therapies that require boosting with Norvir may be

abandoned. What Abbott has done is unforgivable and will go into the history

of the AIDS epidemic as a repugnant commercial manipulation that

unnecessarily burdens people living with HIV/AIDS, especially those with

fewer treatment options who can truly benefit from boosted

protease-inhibitor therapy. Physicians, researchers, government officials,

and patients should be outraged by these events and should take heed of such

gross opportunism tainting the very nature and purpose of healthcare.

Working with the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (ATAC), The Center for

AIDS will fight to make sure that this unjust act is brought to the

attention of both local and national officials and that Abbott regrets the

day it decided to hold salvage patients hostage through selfish

profiteering. Contact ATAC ( if you'd like more information

or to become involved. Also, contact your elected officials to inform them

of this despicable development or call the office of Abbott CEO Miles White

(847-937-6100) to give Abbott your thoughts on the matter directly. Other

Abbott contacts can be found at

The AIDS Treatment Action Coalition's Drug Development Committee sent the
following letter to thousands of HIV treating physicians, researchers, and
pharmacologists across the United States yesterday. The Dear Doctor Letter is part
of a growing demand, with widening support in physician circles, to have Abbott
laboratories roll back the price of Norvir.


Dear HIV Treating Clinician:

I am writing on behalf of the Drug Development Committee (DDC) of the AIDS Treatment Activist Coalition (ATAC) in response to Abbott's recent letter to physicians regarding its 400% price increase of Norvir. ATAC is a national coalition of AIDS activists, working together to end the AIDS epidemic. ATACâ•&Mac250;s Drug Development Committee (DDC) works with government, academia and Industry to provide a community perspective to the development of new HIV drugs and the utilization of HIV therapies.

Abbott representatives would have you believe that they "hear and understand your issues and share your concern." We submit that a 400% price increase only benefits Abbott and its bottom line. It is unconscionable to raise the price of Norvir from $2.14 per 100mg pill to $10.72 per 100mg pill given the financial crisis looming over our nation's healthcare systems.

Abbott claims that approximately 40% of people with HIV have private health insurance and will not be impacted by the increase; and, they insist that only 10% of these patients pay for a percentage of prescription costs or have out of pocket maximums. They also say they have contacted many private insurance carriers and claim few have restrictive drug formularies yet. Their letter mentions only two carriers. Abbott also predicts that insurance carriers will not increase co-pays or premiums based on this 400% increase.

We ask you to compare these statements with your own experience. What is your personal experience with the insurance companies you deal with in your work? Are your prescribing practices limited by restrictive formularies? Are your patients facing increasing premiums, co-pays and lifetime maximums? Are the health insurance carriers you deal with covering more services or fewer services? What kind of hoops do you have to jump through to ensure that services and procedures are covered for your patients? In your experience, are insurance premiums increasing or decreasing? How much of your time is spent dealing with these impediments to providing quality healthcare? Abbott's misinformation machine would have you believe that this 400% price increase is being covered by some limitless fund in the sky. Experience tells us that we pay for everything one way or the other.

Abbott says that it is not raising Norvir prices for either Medicaid or AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs). This is because Abbott is not able to raise the price of Norvir in these instances. Regarding Medicaid, federal law prohibits companies from ordering price increases that are greater than approximately 3% percent over the medical inflationary rate without providing rebates. With respect to ADAPs, Abbott has contractually agreed to a Norvir price freeze until 2005. Weâ•&Mac250;re wondering just how much Abbott intends to raise ADAP prices in 2005 if it has no qualms about currently increasing the private payer price of Norvir by 400%.

Abbott also claims that it will make Norvir immediately available to all people without prescription drug coverage or public assistance. We have requested that Abbott disclose the number of people that have received Norvir via its Patient Assistance Program (PAP), and exactly how long it has taken for them to access the drug, as well as how many people are waiting to receive Norvir. We will continue to monitor the Abbott PAP as we fear that Norvir PAP access may also be limited and more restricted in the future.

Abbott uses the tired, old argument that price increases are needed to cover the cost of new HIV research and development. First of all, what next generation drugs is Abbott testing? Does a new, more stable Norvir formulation qualify as a next generation HIV medication, or will it merely serve to extend Abbott's Norvir patent rights? What have they been doing with Norvir profits since it came to market in 1996? Pre-clinical development of Norvir was funded by a NIAID grant, not by Abbott. FDA full approval of Norvir was based on three clinical trials in a mere 1,583 patients, less than 30% of the usual number of patients generally used for big pharma drug approvals according to Tufts University. Moreover, Norvir development time was extremely short in relation to other approved drugs. It was marketed only four years after Abbott received the NIAID pre-clinical grant and one year after key patents were filed. No pivotal trials lasted more than 48 weeks and FDA approval was expedited and granted within 70 days of its NDA filing. All these factors prove that Norvir was a relatively inexpensive drug to develop.

As luck would have it, Abbott was able to overcome the marketing ramifications of Norvir's horrific side effect profile because it is now primarily used as a protease inhibitor (PI) "booster". As such, Norvir dosing is greatly reduced in most instances, resulting in significantly reduced side effects. Thus, Norvir was able to maintain its market share, unlike many older HIV antivirals. Again, the federal government has been the main investor in new Norvir trials, including â•&Mac254;boostingâ•&Mac255; trials. Of the 26 Norvir trials listed in the NIH CRISP database, 12 are government sponsored. Four are sponsored by other drug companies. Only one is sponsored by Abbott.

Moreover, Norvir generated cumulative sales of more than $1 billion by 2001, a mere fraction of the estimated cost of pre-approval expenditures. Even without a price increase, reasonable estimates indicate that Norvir will generate more than $2 billion in sales over the next ten years as a result of its "boosting" properties. Instead of losing its initial market edge like other HIV drugs, Norvir continues to generate profits for Abbott. This is to say nothing of what Norvirâ•&Mac250;s price increase will do to Abbottâ•&Mac250;s competitorâ•&Mac250;s that need Norvir to â•&Mac254;boostâ•&Mac255; their products for salvage regimens. BMSâ•&Mac250; newly approved Reyataz and GSKâ•&Mac250;s newly approved Lexiva may be priced out of the market as a result of this 400% increase increase. This will negatively affect patients who have burned through older therapies, the very people who need these new drugs the most.

This will also have a chilling effect on future HIV research, again most negatively impacting salvage patients. For instance, tipranavir, which is the new protease inhibitor being developed by Boehringer-Ingelheim, is useless without a 400mg Norvir â•&Mac254;boostâ•&Mac255;. This 400% Norvir price increase just increased the price of this combination by $15,000 annually. Is Abbottâ•&Mac250;s agenda to ensure that other companies will be excluded from developing new salvage regimens? Of course, the price of Abbottâ•&Mac250;s Norvir â•&Mac254;boostedâ•&Mac255; protease inhibitor Kaletra remains untouched. Are they counting on financially strapped third-party payers to include only Kaletra on their formularies? This 400% price increase is tantamount to holding the HIV marketplace hostage to Abbott profits. This is nothing less than pharma terrorism.

A free market and fair competition has made the American pharmaceutical Industry a worldwide giant for better or worse. Is it the American way of business for the taxpayer to foot the bill and incur all the risk associated with drug development, while pharma giants reap all the profits and freeze competitors from the marketplace? We urge you not to believe Abbottâ•&Mac250;s Machiavellian misinformation. We also hope you will follow the example of physicians in both the United States and Europe. Dr. Graeme Moyle of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in the United Kingdom recently said, â•&Mac254;Physicians are looking at ways we can bring our discontent home to Abbott, including talking to our formulary committees and other physicians about limiting the use of all Abbott drugs and diagnostics and where feasible substituting alternative agents.â•&Mac255; AAHIVM member Benjamin Young, MD, PhD. has also condemned this unprecedented price increase. He is refusing to have office meetings with Abbott personnel, attend any Abbott related advisory program, use any Abbott produced educational material, or provide support to Abbott-sponsored clinical research. Dr. Young is also urging AAHIVM members and other physicians to do the same.

We urge you to consider boycotting Abbott drugs and diagnostics when it does not present a risk to patient safety and to express your discontent with your local formulary committees. We also hope you will follow Dr. Youngâ•&Mac250;s lead and refuse to work with Abbott or meet with Abbott marketing personnel until they have rolled back the price of Norvir, completely disavowing any new price increase. Please assist the AIDS affected community in moving this pharmaceutical giant to reconsider its outrageous price increase. You will find our letter to Abbott CEO Miles White at You may also reach Miles White at Abbott Laboratories, 100 Abbott Park, Illinois 60064-3500, 849-937-6100, or We thank you for your work, time, efforts and advocacy on behalf of the HIV/AIDS community.

Very truly yours,

Lynda Dee, DDC Co-Chair
111 North Charles Street, Suite 500
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Doctors Boycott Abbott on AIDS Price Hike
Reuters NewMedia - Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Lisa Richwine and Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) - AIDS doctors on Tuesday called for a boycott of drugs made
by Abbott Laboratories Inc. to protest the company's huge price hike on an important HIV

Abbott's decision in December to raise the price of the drug Norvir, a key component of
many AIDS-fighting cocktails, has generated "a never-before-seen level of outrage" among
physicians, said Dr. Benjamin Young, an HIV specialist at Rose Medical Center in Denver.

"It's simply untenable and unethical for a company to raise the price of a life-saving
medicine nearly 500 percent," Young said in an interview.

About 200 physicians have agreed to boycott Abbott drugs in favor of alternatives whenever
medically appropriate, Young said. Norvir has no equivalent, but physicians can find
substitutes for other Abbott products, Young said.

"If there's an equal alternative, we will pursue that actively," Young said.

The doctors also have agreed to ban Abbott sales representatives from their offices and to
refuse to participate in any new Abbott-sponsored clinical trials, until the company
rescinds the price hike.

Abbott raised the price for 100 milligrams of Norvir, the most common daily dose, to $8.57
from $1.71.

Young and others were scheduled to speak about their protest at a Tuesday afternoon press
conference in San Francisco, where top experts were attending a medical meeting on AIDS
and other infectious diseases.

Norvir, generically called ritonavir, helps quell the HIV virus that causes AIDS. It is
unique in its drug class because it can boost effectiveness of other drugs.

Abbott, which denies wrongdoing, has argued the price increase was long overdue. "Norvir
is still the lowest price" AIDS drug in its class, said Laureen Cassidy, a spokeswoman for
the company.

The doctors' protest comes as two states probe whether Abbott is unfairly pricing the
medication. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madison and New York Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer both sent subpoenas to Abbott late last week, the company confirmed.

Critics say the Norvir price hike was likely to steer patients to another Abbott product,
Kaletra, because it is cheaper than combining Norvir with other AIDS medicines.

AIDS activists late last month asked federal antitrust authorities to investigate the
pricing. The Federal Trade Commission would not comment.

Abbott has denied that the Norvir price hike was related to Kaletra.

Abbott shares fell 11 cents to $44.260 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.


Press Release Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation

AHF Condemns Abbott Over 20% Pay Hike, $500,000 Bonus Increase for C.E.O. in Wake of Unprecedented Price Hike of AIDS Drug
Monday March 15, 8:57 pm ET

Huge Compensation Increase Comes Shortly After Chicago Pharmaceutical Giant's Gouging of AIDS Patients, Drug Company Rivals With 400% Price Increase on Key AIDS Drug, Norvir

#LOS ANGELES, March 15 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, "Abbott Laboratories increased Chief Executive Miles White's salary 4.5 percent and his bonus 40 percent in 2003, the company said in its annual proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. White's total pay was $3.4 million, up 20 percent from 2002. The North Chicago-based drug maker raised his salary to $1.56 million and his bonus to $1.75 million, according to the filing." The inflated compensation package comes just weeks after Abbott Lab's astounding announcement that they have increased the price of a key AIDS drug, Norvir, by 400% -- inducing anxiety and alarm in many cash-strapped HIV/AIDS patients.

"On the heels of Abbott's 400% price increase on their seven year-old AIDS drug Norvir, Abbott now has the hubris to increase their CEO's compensation by nearly three-quarters of a million dollars," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest AIDS group in the US and operator of clinics in South Africa, Uganda, and Honduras. "Although we recognize a company's need to provide compensation packages that are competitive and reflective of the company's performance, it is vital to also acknowledge the social responsibility that large organizations hold. It is seemingly outrageous to shake down AIDS patients and the healthcare system while simultaneously padding the pockets of an elite few."

UPDATE ON AHF  [Selling Out]

AIDS Activists Outraged by Abbott Settlement with AIDS Healthcare Foundation

The news of a settlement reached between Abbott Laboratories and California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in two lawsuits drew fire from the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (ATAC). Abbott’s 400% price increase last December for its drug Norvir, a protease inhibitor used to treat HIV but more commonly used now in small doses to help make other HIV drugs more potent, has sparked a furor among activists, but also healthcare providers. This has resulted in a series of state investigations, lawsuits, and demonstrations against Abbott.

NEW YORK (PRWEB) July 21, 2004 -- The lawsuits were filed by AHF in response to a 400% price increase last December by Abbott for its drug Norvir, a protease inhibitor used to treat HIV but more commonly used now in small doses to help make other HIV drugs more potent. As part of the settlement, Abbott will not reduce the price of Norvir, but will instead contribute to treatment programs run by AHF in the US and Africa.

“This was a carefully orchestrated sell-out by AHF,” said Thomas Gegeny, Executive Director of The Center for AIDS in Houston and an ATAC member. “As far as the HIV/AIDS community is concerned, the issue of Abbott’s unprecedented price increase for Norvir is not settled, nor will it be settled until the price is lowered to its former value. There are several other lawsuits and investigations pending, and the community’s pressure on Abbott will not abate.”

Martin Delaney, founder of Project Inform in San Francisco and also a member of ATAC, noted “The behavior of both AHF and Abbott should come as no surprise in this matter. AHF has a history of bargaining for its own interests to the exclusion of those in the community as a whole. Abbott is simply taking advantage of the opportunity to buy off one avenue of criticism, without addressing the wider problems created by the price increase. The net effect is that people are being forced, through the Norvir price increase, to fund AHF’s programs—without their consent.”

Abbott’s price hike has sparked a furor among activists, but also healthcare providers, most notably members of the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA). A physician-led boycott of Abbott research, consultation fees, and in some cases products has ensued. In May, the National Institutes of Health held hearings on whether or not Abbott’s patent on Norvir should be released to allow for generic versions of Norvir to be produced under the Bayh-Dole Act. More recently, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to Abbott about its marketing materials depicting Norvir as the lowest priced drug in its class because of the low dose now so commonly used, but which in itself offers no anti-HIV activity. Further, probes against the company by Attorneys General in New York and Illinois are still pending as are a class action filed in California and a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

“Despite the half-hearted and self-promoting efforts of AHF, the HIV/AIDS community will not cease its efforts to bring Abbott’s injustice and disease profiteering to the center spotlight of what is fast becoming an inflammatory debate on the future of healthcare in the US,” Gegeny said. “With any luck, the Norvir price hike will become a textbook example of what pharmaceutical companies should not do and may even push the envelope further toward reasonable price controls for lifesaving medications in the US.”

The AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition ( is a national coalition of AIDS activists, many living with HIV/AIDS, working together to end the AIDS epidemic by advancing research on HIV/AIDS.

GOV'T should use power to make drugs affordable
Yale Daily News
... By increasing the price of Norvir, Abbott essentially forced up the
price of combinations using their competitor's drugs, while Abbott's own
combination drug ...

Common Dreams - USA
... Abbott's decision to raise the price of Norvir will cost lives around
the country. Public healthcare and private insurance systems ...

AIDS activists protest Abbott drug prices
MENAFN - Middle East
... In response to an outcry from the AIDS community, Abbott on Feb. 6
froze the price of Norvir at the pre-increase level for patients who purchased
the drug ...

YALIES respond to collegiate AIDS outbreak
The Yale Herald - USA
... Their current project takes on Abbott Pharmaceuticals, which plans
to raise the price of Norvir, a vital drug included in the AIDS cocktail....

American Academy of HIV Medicine
Condemnation and correspondences to Abbott Laboratories...and Abbott's replies

It'll be interesting to know if Abbott "punishes" AAHIVM by restricting future Grants because of this criticism –
and have no doubt, Abbott gives a lot of grant money to community-based IS at risk with Abbott's retribution.
Kudos to organizations with integrity to justly criticize corporate malfeasance at the risk of loosing income!

AIDS drug's high cost spurs doctors' boycott
Boston Globe - Boston,MA,USA
... Doctors championing the boycott contend that Abbott increased the price
of Norvir, among the first members of a class of drugs known as protease
inhibitors, in ...



use back button on browser to return