Abbott Laboratories earlier this month boosted the price of its protease inhibitor Norvir by 500%, with the drug now costing $8.50 for a one-day, 100-milligram supply, up from its previous price of about $1.71, reports the Bay Area Reporter. The cost increase will not apply to the price charged to state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs and will not affect the company's charitable program that provides the drug to low-income, uninsured HIV-positive people, said company spokeswoman Laureen Cassidy, who noted that Norvir is still priced at less than half the cost of other protease inhibitors.
AIDS caregivers and activists reacted with alarm to the price increase, saying it could significantly boost medication bills for low-income HIV-positive people. The HIV Medicine Association reports that while Norvir has little anti-HIV activity of its own at currently used doses, it has become an essential part of many protease inhibitor combinations because it enhances the effect of other anti-HIV drugs. The new pricing means that Norvir-boosted drug combinations will likely become substantially more expensive. About 80% of all HIV antiretroviral regimens contain Norvir to boost the effects of other protease inhibitors, and the cost of such regimens could climb by a minimum of $200 per month under the new pricing structure.
"While we recognize the value of Norvir, we are alarmed by your decision to raise the cost of protease inhibitor regimens to the point where many people who need these lifesaving drug combinations will struggle to pay for them or won't have access to them at all," wrote HIV Medicine Association chairman Paul Volberding and vice chairman Daniel Kuritzkes in a letter to Abbott asking the company to
reconsider the price hike. "In addition to our particular concern about the price increase for Norvir, we are generally concerned about continuing upward pressure on prices as each new HIV drug is
approved. This increase comes at a time when public programs that provide access to HIV treatment are struggling to keep costs down and numerous ADAPs have been forced to impose eligibility and formulary restrictions and/or waiting lists," the HIVMA letter concludes. "We are deeply disappointed that Abbott has taken a step that will increase costs to these vital safety net programs. On behalf of our members and their patients, we urge you to rescind the price increase for Norvir."
Cassidy says the price increase was necessary to fund research into creating a formulation of Norvir that does not need to be refrigerated.