Abbott's Kaletra-Norvir Controversy
Jan 4, 2007
Dear Dr. Wohl, I read the article in the Wall Street Journal today entitled Inside Abbotts Tactics To Protect AIDS Drug, in which you were mentioned. The article describes Abbott executives attempts to increase the market share of their HIV protease inhibitor Kaletra. I pray I am just nave as to the inner workings of large pharma, in my hopes that this is just an isolated incident from an overtly greedy pharmaceutical giant who cares more about a buck than the health and quality of life of the patients who use their products. To conspire to force all U.S. Norvir users to switch to their foul tasting liquid version in hopes to decrease the use of competitors products like Reyataz is a cut-throat idea indeed. Abbotts entire board of directors should be compelled to ingest a quart of that swill daily, and well see how quickly they are to wish that fate onto someone else If the article is accurate, how can you let Abbott win back your good will? There was a large initial outcry when Abbott quadrupled the price of Norvir, but people forget too quickly about uncontrolled corporate greed. Kudos to the WSJ for printing an enlightening article. We must all stand together against this type of injustice. Hopefully it is only Abbott who has lost their moral compass, and not the entire industry. Thank you for your good work, Deep Esophagus
Response from Dr. Wohl
I think the Norvir price increase was a very dark chapter for Abbott. Rightly, many clinicians and patients expressed their outrage at the time - some wrote letters, some picketed, some boycotted. While these efforts did not lead to a role back of the price of Norvir, I feel, as suggested in the article, that we must recognize that the pharmaceutical companies making HIV drugs are our partners in dealing with HIV.
We may strongly disagree with a decision they make and can protest and sit-in but, ultimately, we need them. We need them to develop and market new drugs and to fund initiatives here and abroad that directly help people living with HIV. We need them to work with us, even when we think what they have done is wrong. In this case, the issue is not how can we allow Abbott to win back our confidence but how do we help them do so.
This issue is bigger even than Norvir and reflects the quandry the pharm industry as a whole faces in prioritizing patients versus profits. In most cases, these companies can turn out a life saving meds and also a profit. But they are businesses and sometimes increasing or maintaining returns may come at the expense of the patient. In such cases we are obligated to express ourselves loud and clear and do what we can to create the change we desire - to provide the 'moral compass' you describe. And, when the shouting is over we need to move on get back to working together. Divorce is not an option here.
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