A group of religious shareholders has introduced a shareholder resolution calling on drugmaker Abbott Laboratories to review its AIDS policies, including the pricing of its anti-HIV drugs, particularly in developing nations. The shareholder meeting is scheduled for April 23 in Abbott Park, Ill., near Chicago. The resolution, filed by the Society of Jesus--Maryland Province, a Jesuit organization and member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, calls on Abbott to "review the economic effects of the HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria pandemics on the company's business strategy, and its initiatives to date, and report to shareholders within six months following the 2004 annual meeting." The vote at Abbott Labs is one in a series of four such shareholder resolution votes at major pharmaceutical companies. The shareholders point out that only 4% of the world's HIV-positive people can afford the antiretroviral medications that can suppress HIV in the body. Abbott Laboratories will also face ICCR-backed shareholder resolutions on access and affordability of prescription drugs and the use of shareholder resources for partisan political purposes.
Abbott Laboratories has drawn fire from AIDS activists for raising the price of its seven-year-old protease inhibitor Norvir by more than 400% in December. The drug is commonly used in small doses to boost the effects of other protease inhibitors. Abbott officials say the price increase was designed to generate funds for new drug research and development at the company. But AIDS activists say the price hike was meant to force HIV patients to buy the Abbott protease inhibitor Kaletra, which already contains a small dose of Norvir as a booster in the same pill. The price of Kaletra was not increased by the company, making the drug the cheapest Norvir-boosted protease inhibitor on the market.