HIV patients and activists angry over the Abbott Laboratories decision to rise the price of a key HIV protease inhibitor took their gripes to the drugmaker's annual shareholder meeting on Friday. Several dozen protesters, including AIDS activists, patients, and senior citizens upset about the high price of other Abbott drugs converged outside Abbott's headquarters where shareholders were meeting. At issue is a decision by the suburban Chicago-based company to raise the price of its antiretroviral drug, Norvir, about 400%--from roughly $2,500 for a year's supply to about $10,000. At least two state attorneys general are probing the increase, and Abbott is the target of several lawsuits on the issue.
"I think Abbott was hoping the AIDS community had grown soft and fat," said Jim Pickett, 38, an HIV-positive AIDS activist who lives in Chicago. He said he wanted shareholders to be aware of the "unprecedented and immoral" price increase.
Norvir, generically called ritonavir, is a component of many AIDS-fighting cocktails and helps quell the HIV virus. It is unique in that it boosts the effectiveness of other protease inhibitors. Abbott defends the price change, noting that the drug is still one of the least expensive in its class. The company argues that the increase was long overdue and is necessary for it to recoup costs.
During the meeting no shareholders asked questions about the protesters outside, according to Abbott spokeswoman Jennifer Smoter. (Reuters)