Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Abbott Laboratories Undergoes Transformation to Combat HIV/AIDS, Wall Street Journal Columnist Says
Abbott Laboratories Inc., a company that several years ago refused to lower the cost of its antiretroviral drugs, has transformed, Wall Street Journal columnist Michael Waldholz writes, adding that the company plans to spend $100 million on AIDS treatments and other health services over the next five years in Africa. Several years ago, Abbott CEO Miles White and several other company executives refused a request to lower the price of AIDS drugs to poor nations, arguing that even if such countries had access to the drugs they would have "difficulty using the drugs properly," Waldholz writes. Drug companies have insisted "for years" that few people, if any, would benefit from "slash[ing]" the cost of antiretroviral drugs. However, after White in April visited the east African nation of Tanzania, where he witnessed AIDS' "relentless assault on Africa," he returned with several new goals for his company. Under White's direction, Abbott has reduced the prices of its AIDS-related drugs to below cost for Africa and other poor nations; will donate nearly 20 million "easy-to-use" HIV/AIDS diagnostic tests over the next five years; and will spend millions on the rehabilitation of a major Tanzanian hospital. According to Waldholz, White knows his company's actions will make only a "tiny dent" in the problem, but White said that Abbott must do "our part because we can." Waldholz concludes that in a "refreshing bit of honesty," White added, "[I]f we don't lower prices and provide other help we'll find governments altering patent laws. There is a practical business reason" (Waldholz, Wall Street Journal, 6/27).
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