In a dispute between OraSure Technologies and Abbott Laboratories over the OraQuick rapid HIV antibody test, an arbitrator ruled this week that OraSure must continue to provide the test to Abbott, which sells it to hospitals and physicians, The Allentown [Pa.] Morning Call reports. OraQuick, developed by OraSure but licensed in part to Abbott, can provide test results in about 20 minutes. Under a 2002 deal, OraSure retained the rights to market the test in the public health and criminal justice markets but licensed Abbott to market the test to hospitals and clinics. The deal was struck to allow OraSure to focus on manufacturing the rapid HIV tests while Abbott could rely on its expertise in product marketing to make the test widely available. But late last year, OraSure accused Abbott of falling short on sales quotas and ended the contract. The case went to arbitration when Abbott refused to accept the termination of the contract. In addition to ruling that OraSure must continue providing the tests to the Abbott marketers, the arbitrator also ruled that OraSure could sell the test on its own in areas already served by Abbott or develop collaborations with other companies to do so.
OraQuick was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in November 2002 to screen for HIV antibodies. It can report negative results in about 20 minutes; positive results must be confirmed with a second standard HIV-antibody test. The test kits require no special equipment or lab processes, allowing HIV outreach workers to give the tests at HIV clinics, special testing centers, and even through mobile outreach programs. Health officials say the tests are particularly helpful in reducing the problem of people taking a standard HIV antibody test but failing to return days or even more than a week later to obtain the results. As many as one-third of all people who take standard HIV tests never return for the results, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials.