Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
AIDS Healthcare Foundation Sues GlaxoSmithKline for False Advertising Regarding AIDS Drug Pricing
AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Tuesday filed a lawsuit alleging that GlaxoSmithKline has engaged in false advertising by claiming that it supplies AIDS drugs to developing countries "at cost," Reuters Health reports. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of California, said that the company had made false claims in its advertising and public relations campaigns "in order to induce consumers, insurers and investors to purchase" the company's products and stock. AHF's allegations center around GSK's preferential pricing program, which the company launched in 2000 following intense pressure for price cuts for African nations. Under the program, GSK says that it offers its antiretroviral drugs Retrovir, Epivir and Combivir "at cost" to developing nations, making "no profit" from the sale of the drugs. AHF alleges that GSK's claims are false, citing a disparity between the pricing of GSK's drugs and those of similar generic drugs, which AHF claims are two to four times less expensive than GSK's brand name drugs. "AHF believes that Glaxo's statements that these drugs are being produced not-for-profit or at cost ... are simply false. We can't believe that Glaxo is two to four times less efficient than other companies," AHF General Counsel Tom Myers said (Reuters Health, 2/12). AHF is seeking an injunction to prohibit GSK from making these statements; to require the company to surrender profits "wrongfully obtained" under such false advertising; and to recover attorney's fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit (Lawsuit text, 2/12). The company yesterday refuted the charges that it sells its drugs for twice as much as other companies and said that it sells its AIDS-related drugs on a "not-for-profit" basis in African nations. GSK CEO Jean-Pierre Garnier called the lawsuit "blackmail," adding that AHF was on a "publicity coup" with the latest filing, London's Guardian reports (Treanor, Guardian, 2/13). AHF has filed several other measures against the pharmaceutical company, including a lawsuit filed last month with the South Africa Competition Commission alleging that GSK's drug prices prohibited HIV-positive people from receiving treatment. GlaxoSmithKline holds approximately 40% of the global market for HIV/AIDS medications (Reuters Health, 2/12).
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