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Press Release

Abbott Drug Pricing Condemned by AIDS Advocates in International Protests

In Coordinated Actions Wednesday, Protesters in Mexico, Colombia and the U.S. Demand That Abbott Lowers the Price of Its Key AIDS Drug Kaletra; Advocates Otherwise Vow to Seek Compulsory Licenses in Colombia and Mexico; In U.S., AHF to Also Premiere 60-Second Video Parody Blasting Abbott and CEO Miles White on YouTube and Place Spot as TV Commercial on Select Chicago-Area Television Stations

January 27, 2009

Chicago -- As part of an ongoing multinational campaign to lower drug prices and improve access to lifesaving AIDS treatments globally, AIDS advocates from three countries -- Colombia, Mexico and the United States -- are holding simultaneous protests today in each of the three countries targeting Chicago-based pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories over the pricing of its AIDS drug, Kaletra, which can be a key component of lifesaving AIDS drug treatment regimens, particularly as part of what are known as "second-line" treatments and salvage therapy.

Advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the group coordinating the U.S. protest in the Chicago area (which is being supported by local student activists who have been involved in the AIDS drug pricing issue) will also release a sixty second video parody lambasting Abbott and its CEO, Miles D. White over the drug giant's continuing coldhearted actions on the pricing of its key AIDS drugs. The video parody will premiere publicly for the first time when it is posted on YouTube Wednesday in conjunction with the coordinated international protests in the three countries. The spot will then also run as a paid television commercial on select Chicago area television stations. Link to a preview of the video parody:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cJXSKIDcNU

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"People may not be aware that Abbott is abusing NAFTA's patent protections to charge five times as much for Kaletra in Mexico as it does in other middle-income countries, keeping this lifesaving drug out of reach for nearly all those living with HIV/AIDS in Mexico," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President. "We hope these simultaneous international protests in Mexico, Colombia and the U.S. will help bring about an end to Abbott's price-gouging policies in Mexico and Colombia that shamefully continue to place profits ahead of saving lives."

"Many patients living here in Mexico depend on access to drugs such as Kaletra that are available elsewhere at a much, much lower cost," said Patricia Campos, M.D., AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Latin America Bureau Chief, who is based in Mexico and is a principal coordinator of today's Abbott protest in Mexico City. "We are strongly urging Abbott to immediately lower the price of Kaletra in Mexico to equal the price offered to Brazil in order to ensure that people in need in Mexico are not priced out of such potential lifesaving AIDS treatments."

"Through these coordinated, grassroots international protests today, we want to loudly and clearly remind Abbott, its employees and the general public that the lives of people living with -- and dying from -- HIV/AIDS in Mexico and Colombia are just as important as those of people living with AIDS here in the United States. As a result, we are asking Abbott to reduce the price of Kaletra in those two countries," said Terri Ford, Director of Global Advocacy for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "We literally want to bring this message home to Abbott and its executives. That is why our Chicago protest is taking place in front of the Lake Forrest home of Abbott CEO Miles D. White."

Abbott has long been the target of multinational protests and legal actions over the pricing of its AIDS drugs including Kaletra and Norvir. Over the past several years as many of Abbott's industry peers have significantly lowered the prices of their own lifesaving AIDS medicines on their own volition and in response to worldwide humanitarian need, Abbott has remained steadfast in its refusal to do so, or it has countered advocates' and governments' demands with only modest price reductions.

According to the website, www.aidsmeds.com, "Kaletra, a protease inhibitor (sold under the brand name Aluvia in some parts of the world), is actually two drugs combined into a single capsule: lopinavir and low doses of ritonavir (Norvir), another protease inhibitor manufactured by Abbott Laboratories. This is because ritonavir increases the amount of lopinavir in the blood, thus making it more effective against HIV."


Abbott Laboratories and Kaletra

  • Abbott's Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) is considered to be the premier second-line treatment for HIV worldwide due not only to its efficacy and low side-effects but also its reduced pill burden. Due to its high price (typically four to six times more than other treatments) it is not been widely included in national treatments programs and those who developed resistance to other treatments in these countries have had few options.

  • Worldwide sales of Kaletra in 2006 alone were over $1 Billion, while projections estimate the market for HIV Drugs to reach $10 Billion by 2015.

  • Abbott charges $1,000 per patient per year for Kaletra in most middle-income countries and $500 per patient per year in low-income nations. Generic lopinivar/ritonavir costs $600 per patient per year. In Mexico and Colombia, Abbott charges $5,400 and $3,500 per patient per year, respectively. On January 28, 2009, activists in Mexico, Colombia, and the United States will petition Abbott to lower these prices and the respective governments to break the patents country so that the medicine is available to all who need it. 21,000 people per year die of AIDS in the two countries.


Kaletra in Mexico

  • Mexico is a middle income country with an average income per capita of $7,454 per year. 200,000 people are living with AIDS. HIV prevalence is 0.3% and 11,000 people die each year die from AIDS in the country.

  • Mexico is unable to provide antiretroviral therapy to those who need it. UNAIDS estimates that 33,000 people with AIDS who need ARV therapy now (43% of the total), are not currently accessing it in Mexico. Mexico's government is spending $155 million each year for AIDS drugs.

  • Abbott charges Mexico an exorbitant $5,400 per patient per year, the same price it charged in 2003. This over 5x the $1,000 per patient per year which it charges in other countries in Latin America (Including Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, and Ecuador) and over 10x the price it charges in Africa, Haiti, and Cambodia.

  • In contrast, ALL other drug companies have offered significant price reductions on their medications. Advocacy and negotiations between the Mexican Government and the major pharmaceutical companies resulted in significant drops in price in 2008 alone. For instance, GlaxoSmithKline accepted a 40% price reduction for Abacavir while Merck, Sharpe, and Dohme accepted a 40% price reduction for Efavirenz.

  • The Mexican Coalicion de Activistas por el Aceso Universal en VIH/SIDA demands that Abbott reduce its prices and the Mexican Government to issue a compulsory license for Kaletra.


Kaletra in Colombia

  • Colombia is a lower-middle income country with an average income per capita of $2,600 per year. The country has one of the most serious HIV/AIDS problems in the region: 170,000 people living with AIDS and a rapidly rising HIV prevalence (currently 0.7%). An average of 10,000 people each year die from AIDS in the country.

  • Colombia is unable to provide antiretroviral therapy to those who need it. UNAIDS estimates that 33,000 people with AIDS who need ARV therapy now (62% of the total) are not currently accessing it. Colombia's government is spending $70 million each year for AIDS drugs (all national funding).

  • Abbott promotes Colombia as receiving a preferred price of $1,000 per patient per year for lower-middle income countries on its website. However, in reality Abbott charged Colombia $8,400 per patient per year up through mid-2007. Abbott is currently charging $3,500 in Colombia.

  • Abbott uses unorthodox and unethical marketing strategies in Colombia to promote Kaletra. This includes offering classes, dinners, and trips to patients on Kaletra. As a result, Kaletra is the 2nd-most widely prescribed AIDS medicine in Colombia, highly unusual for a 2nd-line medication. Kaletra accounts for 1/3 of Colombia's AIDS drug costs.

  • On April 7, 2008, the Mesa de Organizacions con Trabajo en VIH/SIDA and the Red Colombiana de Personas Viviendo con VIH o con SIDA requested an open license on Kaletra. The local Colombian generics industry has the capacity to manufacture Kaletra at much lower costs AND Colombia has an agreement with the Clinton Foundation through which it could get a generic version of Kaletra for approximately $600 per patient per year. Abbott did not respond.

  • The Mesa de Organizaciones con Trabajo en VIH/SIDA, the Red Colombiana de Personas Viviendo con VIH o con SIDA, Mission Salud, and IFARMA requested a compulsory license for Kaletra from the Ministry of Commerce. The Ministry of Commerce has requested the Ministry of Social Protection to rule whether or not Kaletra is a medication "in the public interest." The ruling is expected in early 2009.


Post-Protest Press Conference & Teleconference Call -- Chicago

What: Follow Up POST-PROTEST Press Teleconference Call --
Multinational Protests re: Abbott Laboratories' AIDS Drug Pricing, Release of Parody Video
Where: Hotel Allegro, Cinema Room #1 (3rd Floor) 171 W Randolph St, Chicago IL 60601
When: 1:00 PM (Central & Mexico Time, 2:00pm Colombia time) -- Wednesday, January 28th
How: Teleconference Dial in information
U.S. Callers
+1.877.411.9748 participant code #7931503
International Toll Callers
+.1.636.651.3128 participant code #7931503


Abbott Protest Schedules/Locations -- U.S., Mexico & Colombia

  • United States -- Chicago
    WHAT: Protest re: Abbott's AIDS Drug Pricing of Kaletra
    WHEN: Wednesday, Jan 28, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.
    WHERE: in front of the home of
    Abbott CEO Miles D. White
    1313 North Green Bay Road
    Lake Forrest IL 60045

    VISUALS: 3ft x 5ft "Shame on Abbott" placards & banners; also, release of TV commercial/video parody of Abbott and its CEO Miles White

  • Colombia -- Bogota
    Protest Against Abbott Laboratories de Colombia S.A.
    MIÉRCOLES 28 DE ENERO DE 2009 A LAS 10:00 AM
    Abbott de Colombia, S.A.
    Calle 100 #9A-45, 14th Floor, Bogota, Colombia (NOTE: Protest will be in the street, not in the building)
    Contacts:
    SPANISH LANGUAGE

    Luz Marina Umbral at +57 55 315 323 5765 SPANISH

    Francisco Rossi, PhD at +57 52 338 1490
    licencia.obligatoria.colombia@gmail.com

    ENGLISH/SPANISH

    Clint Trout +57 318 755 8861

  • Mexico -- Mexico City
    UNETE AL PLANTON CONTRA ABBOTT POR LA REDUCCION DEL PRECIO DEL KALETRA ESTE PRÓXIMO MIÉRCOLES 28 DE ENERO DE 2009 A LAS 11:00 AM AFUERA DEL EDIFICIO DE LA SECRETARIA DE SALUD EN LA CALLE DE LIEJA No.7, CHAPULTEPEC. DELEGACION CUAUHTEMOC.

    ¡SOLIDARIZATE, MUCHAS VIDAS DEPENDEN DE TU PARTICIPACIÓN!

    CONVOCA:COALICIÓN DE ACTIVISTAS POR EL ACCESO UNIVERSAL

    INFORMES AL CELULAR 55 16 83 25 01 y 55 14 79 61 85

    email: coalicion.activistas@gmail.com



  
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This article was provided by AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
 
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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Gabby Byrnes (Newcastle, Australia) Wed., Jul. 29, 2009 at 10:39 pm EDT
This is disgusting. In my studies of economics - which are by no means extensive, But I have learned, that people below the poverty index line have less than $US2 a day. Those in absolute poverty have less than $US1 per day. It is ludacris that these complanies have increased thier price by so much. $US500 a year - these people can only dream of that much money! Not to mention the countries' debt and water sanitation.
You may not even know these people, you may not know thier family, their friends, thier lives - but they do indeed exist. And to deprive them of an acceptable, bearable standard of living so you can drive your merc or your jag is utterly repulsive.

What has happened to good humanity?

All this funding going towards space travel to mars... When our own planet is so terrible now.
What a logical race we are.
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