Court rejects Glaxo's request to dismiss AIDS Healthcare Foundation lawsuit
A U.S. district court in California last week rejected a request from pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to dismiss a lawsuit against the firm by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation seeking to revoke its patent on the anti-HIV drug Retrovir (AZT). AHF in April filed an amended lawsuit challenging Glaxo's patents on three of its HIV antiretroviral medications, claiming that the patents were invalid because basic research into the drugs was funded with federal tax dollars and that the medications were exorbitantly priced. The suit claims that AZT was developed by the National Institutes of Health in 1964 as an anticancer drug and that it was tested by the NIH to treat HIV infection about 17 months before Glaxo filed its patent on the medication. U.S. law requires that drugs developed with federal funds be sold at a "reasonable price," which can be set by the courts if necessary. The amended lawsuit also claims that the price Glaxo charges for AZT is 32 times its manufacturing cost. The lawsuit also addresses Glaxo's anti-HIV combination pills Combivir and Trizivir, both of which contain AZT. "Glaxo officials have repeatedly called our AZT patent piracy lawsuit 'frivolous' and 'without merit,' but this court ruling clearly says otherwise," AHF president Michael Weinstein told The [Manchester, U.K.] Guardian. "We can now move forward with our challenge to Glaxo's stranglehold on the patent for AZT." A Glaxo spokesperson said that AHF's claims "are entirely without merit, offer no new information, and are based on decades-old history that has already been thoroughly reviewed and decided by the courts."