Doctors Organize to Protest Abbott's Norvir Price Hike
The annual Retrovirus Conference, the most important scientific meeting of the year on HIV/AIDS, held this year in San Francisco from February 8-13, is not usually an occasion for social or political expression. In fact, the organizers actively discourage demonstrations and leafleting and reward any interruptions with banishment. This year's conference was remarkable for the manifestations of anger and protest at pharmaceutical maker Abbott Laboratories over a 400% increase in the price of their HIV drug, Norvir, announced in December of 2003. Even more remarkable was that the most visible protest leaders were a group of HIV doctors from around the country who have organized a new coalition to speak out about the Abbott outrage as well as on ADAP budget cuts and other threats to their ability to rationally care for people with HIV.
During an afternoon break on the second day of the conference, about 30 physicians representing the newly formed Organization of HIV Healthcare Providers gathered in front of the Moscone West Center and marched two blocks to a press conference at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation where Drs. Bill Powderly, of Saint Louis, Benjamin Young, of Denver, and Edwin DeJesus, of Miami, explained the necessity of resisting the Norvir price hike. Addressing the cameras of CNN and San Francisco news outlets in the packed meeting room, the physicians pledged to boycott Abbott's sales representatives, resign from Abbott advisory boards and refuse to participate in non-essential Abbott research. The Providers have obtained over 200 pledges to support the boycott, said New York physician, Howard Grossman. The press conference was organized by the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (ATAC).
Earlier in the week, members of the two large HIV doctor's organizations, the 1,600 member American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) and the HIV Medical Association (HIVMA), which had each issued strong letters criticizing the Abbott move, held an unprecedented joint meeting to strategize support for adequate funding for HIV care programs. Members of the new Organization of HIV Healthcare Providers group are planning "white coat" visits to Congress in the coming months to lobby for ADAP and Medicaid funding.
This article was provided by Gay Men's Health Crisis. It is a part of the publication GMHC Treatment Issues. Visit GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.