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NIH sets hearing on Norvir

NIH sets hearing on Norvir

The National Institutes of Health will hold a public hearing May 25 on a request to allow cheaper, generic copies of Abbott Laboratories' protease inhibitor Norvir, the federal government announced Wednesday. The consumer-activist nonprofit group Essential Inventions asked the Department of Health and Human Services for a license to produce generic copies of Norvir while it is still under patent. Though developed with support from taxpayer funds, Norvir is now being sold at an unreasonable price, the activists argue. Last December, Abbott raised the price of Norvir 400%, from $1.71 to $8.57 for a 100-milligram capsule. Abbott said the price increase was long overdue and was needed to help fund future research and development. Norvir is unique among drugs in its class because it boosts the effectiveness of other protease inhibitors. Essential Inventions requested the license in January, citing the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act as giving the HHS secretary power to grant licenses to other manufacturers for patented drugs developed with taxpayer funds. Abbott spokeswoman Jennifer Smoter said the Bayh-Dole Act was intended for use when the public did not have access to an invention supported by taxpayer money. "We make sure people have access to Norvir," said Smoter, adding that the company anticipates being invited to the hearing. James Love, founder of Essential Inventions, said he was delighted that the Bush administration granted a public hearing on the licensing issue. "At this point, this is progress," Love added. (Reuters)

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