Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Abbott Laboratories, Orasure Technologies Agree to Jointly Market OraSure Quick HIV Test
Abbott Laboratories and OraSure Technologies, Inc. have overcome patent disagreements and agreed to jointly market OraSure's rapid HIV test, the Wall Street Journal reports. The test, which uses a drop of blood from a pin prick and takes just 20 minutes to process, is "widely available" in other countries, but patent disputes have prevented the product from being marketed in the United States. Until two years ago, federal regulators required any HIV diagnostic test to detect the presence of the common HIV-1 and the more rare HIV-2 strains. However, Abbott holds a patent on HIV-2 in the United States and has claimed patent rights on the design of several rapid HIV tests, including the one created by OraSure. Under the terms of the deal, Abbott has agreed to license to OraSure the patents related to the test's design and will market primarily to hospitals and physicians, while OraSure will deal with the public health and criminal justice markets. Abbott and OraSure will continue to negotiate the HIV-2 "patent problem" and plan to jointly market worldwide a rapid test that detects both HIV strains. The current rapid test still needs FDA approval, but the agency told OraSure in May that it is likely to approve the product, and OraSure plans to begin marketing the test later this year. The new tests will compete with traditional HIV laboratory tests, which can take up to two weeks to return results. As many as 33% of those tested for HIV at public clinics fail to return for results, and many of those patients are difficult to track down because of their transient nature, according to Bernard Branson, an epidemiologist in charge of HIV diagnostics at the CDC. However, the rapid test is not expected to eliminate the traditional lab tests, which are still done "routinely" during blood workups (Anand, Wall Street Journal, 6/17).
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