U.S. News

Abbott Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Over Price of Antiretroviral Norvir

August 1, 2008

Abbott Laboratories on Wednesday agreed to pay between $10 million and $27.5 million to settle an antitrust lawsuit filed by HIV/AIDS advocates and other drug companies over an increase in the price of the company's antiretroviral drug Norvir, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 7/31).

Abbott in December 2003 quadrupled the per-patient wholesale price of Norvir, which is known generically as ritonavir. Norvir primarily is used as a booster for other protease inhibitors. Abbott exempted Medicaid, Medicare and state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs from the price increase and announced it would expand its patient assistance program. The cost of Norvir increased from $51.30 for 30 100-milligram capsules to $257.10 for 30 100-mg capsules, or by $5,000 more annually. In a suit filed in October 2007, GlaxoSmithKline and several pharmacy chains -- Safeway, Walgreen, Kroger, Supervalu's New Albertson's and American Sales -- also alleged that Abbott "unlawfully extended its monopoly position as the sole provider of Norvir" by increasing the drug's price (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/12/07).

The settlement will need to be approved by a federal judge in Oakland, Calif., where the suit was scheduled to go to trial next month, the AP/Herald Tribune reports. In addition, the final amount of the payout depends on an appeals court ruling of three legal questions, Abbott spokesperson Melissa Brotz said. Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return calls for comment.

Abbott is facing six other antitrust lawsuits filed by 16 companies, the AP/Herald Tribune reports. Two other lawsuits filed in Illinois have been dismissed (AP/International Herald Tribune, 7/31). "The price adjustment of Norvir was a legitimate response to advances that Abbott scientists made in treating HIV and captured the fair value of its new use as a bolster" in combination therapies," Abbott spokesperson Scott Stoffel said. He added that Abbott sees the settlement as being "in the best interests of both parties." According to Stoffel, the agreement calls for the settlement funds to primarily go to HIV/AIDS-related charities (Graybow, Reuters UK, 7/31).

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