Allowing Production of Generic Norvir Would ‘Retard Development of New Drugs,’ Opinion Piece Says
Advocates seeking to obtain a license to produce a generic version of Abbott Laboratories' antiretroviral drug Norvir while the drug is still under patent could "severely retard the development of new drugs," James Glassman, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a co-founder of TechCentralStation.com, and Nick Schulz, editor of TechCentralStation.com, write in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Glassman/Schulz, Los Angeles Times, 6/1). In December 2003, Abbott increased by about 400% the per-patient, wholesale price of Norvir, which is known generically as ritonavir. Essential Inventions, a not-for-profit organization run by consumer advocates, in April filed a request with HHS for a license to produce a generic version of the drug while it is still under patent, saying that the drug was developed using federal funding and is being sold at an unreasonably high price. According to the group, under the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, the HHS secretary has the authority to grant licenses to other manufacturers to produce patented medicines that were developed using federal funding. Abbott received a $3.47 million NIH grant in 1988 for early research on protease inhibitors. Although the grant did not lead directly to Norvir, the team of researchers that was formed under the NIH grant eventually developed the drug (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/26). NIH on Tuesday heard testimony on the Essential Inventions' request (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27). Although Abbott may have "raised its price too high too fast," it was "Abbott's decision to make," Glassman and Schulz say, adding, "A free economy permits companies to set their own prices, constrained only by the forces of competition and supply and demand." The authors say, "Trying to sabotage this productive machinery imperils health and shortens lives. We need more -- not fewer -- protections for intellectual property of all sorts, from software to entertainment to drugs," concluding, "Though $8.57 a day mounts up," it is a "small price to pay when faced with the alternative of dying" (Los Angeles Times, 6/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.