March 19, 2004
Details, Previous Suit
In the suit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, AHF also alleges that Abbott has not "honored its pledge" to allow public aid and charity groups to purchase Norvir at the old price, according to Reuters (Reuters, 3/18). The false advertising suit comes after AHF in February filed a federal antitrust suit against Abbott (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/11). That suit seeks unspecified damages and a court order establishing a price for Norvir that is within "reasonable financial reach of the HIV-infected public" (Associated Press, 3/18). An Abbott spokesperson said that AHF "continues to file frivolous lawsuits," adding that the false advertising suit "is part of an ongoing misinformation campaign by this organization with no respect for the facts" (Dow Jones/Chicago Tribune, 3/19). In a statement, Abbott said the company and the state of California have signed a contract affirming that Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, "is not affected by the recent re-pricing of Norvir," Reuters reports. The statement also said that AHF only needs to show that it meets federal regulations as a public health provider to purchase Norvir at the price offered to Medi-Cal, according to Reuters (Reuters, 3/18).
Abbott spokesperson Laureen Cassidy said, "Abbott complies with federal laws overseeing Medicaid." She added that a representative from Medi-Cal's Medical Services Branch in testimony to the California Senate health budget subcommittee confirmed the price increase had "no impact" on Medi-Cal (AP/Biloxi Sun Herald, 3/18). AHF -- which operates seven pharmacies and several clinics in the United States, Africa and Central America -- is one of the country's largest purchasers of antiretrovirals, according to AHF, Reuters reports (Reuters, 3/18). AHF President Michael Weinstein said, "The federal antitrust complaint that we filed last month deals with what we see as the 'crime' -- Abbott's initial, egregious and unprecedented 400% price hike on Norvir back in December," adding, "This new complaint ... deals with the 'cover up' -- the fact that Abbott is now engaging in deceptive business practices, false advertising and fraud by misrepresenting how, or even if, Medicaid programs will actually be held harmless and not be charged more as a result of this price hike as Abbott asserts" (AHF release, 3/18).
Approximately 250 doctors and other health care workers throughout the United States currently are participating in a boycott against Abbott because of the Norvir price increase, the Boston Globe reports (Smith, Boston Globe, 3/19). Doctors in February at the 11th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in San Francisco agreed that until Abbott reduces the price of Norvir, they will resign from all Abbott advisory boards and lecture faculties, prohibit all Abbott representatives from visiting their offices and not participate in any future Abbott-sponsored clinical trials. In addition, the doctors will consider non-Abbott drug treatment alternatives for their patients unless an Abbott drug would be in the patient's best interest. The physicians have extended the boycott to other Abbott products and have encouraged other physicians to join the boycott (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/11). Participants in the boycott include physicians associated with AHF and Boston-based Fenway Community Health Center, among others. Fenway Executive Director Dr. Stephen Boswell said that he understands Abbott's desire to obtain a "reasonable profit," according to the Globe. "But this is beyond any reasonable, justifiable increase," Boswell said, adding, "People depend on these drugs for their lives. We're going to object whenever we think what drug companies are doing is unreasonable and not in the best interest of the patients we're caring for" (Boston Globe, 3/19).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.
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