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Nonprofit group calls for investigation into Abbott's
price increase of Norvir

Nonprofit group calls for investigation into Abbott's
price increase of Norvir

Essential Inventions, Inc., a nonprofit organization, on Thursday filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Abbott Laboratories recently raised the price of its HIV protease inhibitor Norvir by 400% in an attempt to unfairly drive the market share to another Abbott anti-HIV drug, Kaletra. Norvir is unique in its class because it can boost the effectiveness of other protease inhibitors and is commonly prescribed for use with other protease drugs. Kaletra is a single pill that contains Norvir and another protease drug. But despite the four-fold boost in Norvir's cost, which will significantly raise the price tag on anti-HIV drug regimens that include the drug, Abbott did not change Kaletra's price. That decision, Essential Inventions contends, is an unfair and anticompetitive way to make other Norvir-containing cocktails so expensive that Kaletra will become the only affordable treatment for many HIV patients. Essential Inventions also reportedly asked Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson to override Abbott's patent on Norvir so that cheaper, generic versions of the medication can be manufactured. Under the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, HHS is permitted to provide generic manufacturing licenses to other generic drug companies when needed for public health or because the patent holder has failed to make the product available on reasonable terms, according to the nonprofit group. There was no report as to whether Thompson received the request or if he planned any action on it. Abbott spokeswoman Ann Fahey-Widman denies Essential Inventions' allegations that the company is engaging in anticompetitive activities and says the decision to raise the price of Norvir from about $1.71 for a 100-milligram pill to $8.57 supports the company's ability to conduct research and development of other medications, including better anti-HIV drugs. She added that Norvir had been priced below other protease inhibitors, but "the use and value of this drug has changed dramatically" in light of its unique boosting power, she said. The FTC declined to comment on whether the agency would launch an investigation into Abbott Laboratories. But legal analysts say the company's Norvir price hike may violate antitrust laws. "It's arguable and it's worth making," a Washington antitrust attorney said of calls for an FTC investigation. "But how the courts are going to come out, it's not obvious."

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