Aetna, the nation's third largest health insurer, on Wednesday filed a class-action lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories claiming that the pharmaceutical company's 400% price hike on its protease inhibitor Norvir violates federal antitrust laws, the Chicago Tribune reports. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in San Francisco on behalf of all HIV patients who've purchased Norvir since December 3, claims Norvir's higher cost forces HIV-positive people to pay too high a price for the drug than would otherwise occur in a fair and competitive market. Insurance companies also have borne the brunt of the financial impact of Abbott's anticompetitive actions, according to the lawsuit. Aetna is seeking unspecified damages and a ruling that the company be banned from monopolizing the anti-HIV drug market.
The pharmaceutical company is facing similar lawsuits from AIDS activists and consumer groups, and it is being investigated by the attorneys general of Illinois and Texas. On Tuesday the company defended the price hike on Norvir at a National Institutes of Health hearing for an application by a generic drug company seeking federal approval to make cheap, generic versions of the patented medication. Abbott spokeswoman Jennifer Smoter called the Aetna lawsuit and other legal challenges "without merit" and said the "repricing of Norvir is entirely lawful."