Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Aetna Drops Lawsuit Over 400% Price Increase of Abbott’s Antiretroviral Drug Norvir
Aetna, the nation's third-largest health insurer, on Thursday "abruptly" dropped a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against Abbott Laboratories over the drug company's recent 400% price increase for its antiretroviral drug Norvir, the Hartford Courant reports (Levick, Hartford Courant, 5/28). In December 2003, Abbott increased by about 400% the per-patient wholesale price of Norvir, which is known generically as ritonavir. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of all patients who have purchased the drug since Dec. 3, 2003, claimed that patients were "being forced to pay higher prices for Norvir, which is an essential element of their HIV treatment, than would otherwise occur in a fair and competitive market." The lawsuit asked that Abbott be barred from monopolizing the market and sought unspecified damages (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27). Aetna declined to comment on why it dropped the lawsuit. However, some sources familiar with the case said that Abbott is an Aetna health plan customer and "certain high-ranking Aetna officials weren't aware that the suit had been filed," according to the Courant (Hartford Courant, 5/28). The insurer said it "intends to discuss with Abbott the basis for its repricing action" (Abboud, Wall Street Journal, 5/28). Abbott said it did not know the reasoning behind Aetna's decision to drop the suit, but the company does not plan to negotiate a new pricing deal with the insurer, according to the Chicago Tribune. "Abbott maintains its pricing decision was appropriate and lawful. We are standing by our pricing action. We are not changing anything," Abbott spokesperson Jennifer Smoter said (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 5/28). Abbott still faces similar suits from AIDS advocacy and consumer groups and is being investigated by the attorneys general of Illinois and Texas. In addition, NIH is considering a request from the consumer group Essential Inventions for a license to produce a generic version of the drug while it is still under patent (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27)
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