April 20, 2004
Lawsuit Details, Reaction
According to Joseph Tabacco, a lawyer representing the patients, the lawsuit could be the first Norvir suit seeking class-action status, Reuters reports. In order to establish class-action status, the court must determine that the plaintiffs are "similar enough to represent a class," according to Reuters (Reuters, 4/19). Lawyers representing the patients say that by increasing the price of Norvir -- which adds thousands of dollars a year to the cost of its competitors' regimens that use the drug as a booster -- Abbott is attempting to direct patients and physicians to use Kaletra, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Tabacco said, "It is one thing for a pharmaceutical company to make money, but Abbott's unjustified price increase has taken unfair advantage of the very people it should be trying to help" (Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 4/20). He added, "What makes this particularly outrageous is that Abbott depended on U.S. government grants to develop Norvir. Even without the price hike, the company was on track to generate total sales of more than $3 billion on the drug -- 180 times its original investment" (Berman, DeValerio, Pease, Tabacco, Burt & Pucillo release, 4/19). Abbott spokesperson Jennifer Smother said, "The lawsuit is completely without merit. Abbott will defend against the allegations and continue working to deliver cost-effective medicines for people with HIV." Martin Delaney of the San Francisco-based AIDS advocacy group Project Inform said, "It's become a rallying cry over drug pricing. In the long haul, it creates anti-competitive pressure and continues the process of prices going up and up and up" (San Jose Mercury News, 4/20).
A group of protestors on Monday began a 34-hour vigil in front of an Abbott location in South Pasadena, Calif., Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/19). Participants in the vigil include representatives from AHF, the Southern California HIV Advocacy Coalition, Bienestar, Whittier Rio Hondo AIDS Project and other AIDS advocates and patients. The vigil also is being supported by the Organization of HIV Healthcare Providers (AHF release, 4/19). Participants in the vigil carried signs reading, "Abbott Labs: 'Getting Fat on AIDS,'" according to Reuters (Reuters, 4/19).
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