Two HIV/AIDS Patients File Federal Antitrust Suit Against Abbott Over Price of Norvir; May Seek Class-Action Status
April 20, 2004
Two HIV/AIDS patients on Monday in the U.S. District Court for Northern California filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories claiming that the pharmaceutical company illegally "jack[ed] up the price" of its antiretroviral drug Norvir by 400%, Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/19). In December 2003, Abbott increased from $54 per month to $265 per month the per-patient wholesale price of Norvir, which is known generically as ritonavir. Norvir is used primarily as a booster for other protease inhibitors, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb's Reyataz and Merck's Crixivan. On Feb. 6, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) announced that her office had opened an investigation into whether the price increase of Norvir was designed to increase the price of antiretroviral drug combinations that use Norvir as a booster and steer patients toward Abbott's newer antiretroviral drug Kaletra. Kaletra, which does not need a booster because it includes ritonavir, costs about $18.78 per patient per day, or $563.40 per patient per month, and has a longer patent life (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/14). In addition, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation last month filed suit against Abbott claiming that the drug maker used false advertising to say that state Medicaid programs would not be affected by the price increase. The AHF suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Abbott falsely stated the impact the price increase could have on California's Medicaid program. AHF in February also filed a federal antitrust suit against Abbott, seeking unspecified damages and a court order establishing a price for Norvir that is within "reasonable financial reach of the HIV-infected public." 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/19).
Lawsuit Details, Reaction
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