Norvir Price Increase Furthers Patient Fears That Drug Companies Will ‘Squeeze Americans for Revenue,’ Editorial Says
Although NIH's decision last week to reject a request to override Abbott Laboratories' patent for the antiretroviral drug Norvir "legally ... made sense," Abbott "has some explaining to do" to "AIDS patients who don't give a rip about legal niceties," a Los Angeles Times editorial says (Los Angeles Times, 8/10). In December 2003, Abbott quadrupled the per-patient wholesale price of Norvir, which is used primarily as a booster for other protease inhibitors, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb's Reyataz and Merck's Crixivan. The consumer group Essential Inventions in April filed a request for a license to produce a generic version of the medication while it is still under patent, saying that Norvir 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 government has the authority to grant licenses to other manufacturers to produce patented medicines that were developed using federal funding. In such cases, the government also reserves the right to demand reasonable prices from the drug maker. NIH concluded that Abbott is adhering to the intent of the law and that Norvir is made available to patients on "reasonable terms," effectively allowing the price increase (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/5). Although Abbott has "set up programs it claims will effectively make the price increase a nonissue" for those who cannot afford the drug, "[y]ou'd think the administrative costs of dealing with those who will now apply for aid would cancel the profit," the editorial says. "Another big chunk of customers will no doubt be looking for a Canadian pharmacy," because "only American AIDS patients" must pay the increased price, the editorial says. The Times concludes, "A move like Abbott's, no matter what socially conscious smoke screens it puts up, only furthers patients' fears that drug companies will squeeze Americans for revenue they can't get elsewhere and will aim at people who need a drug to stay alive" (Los Angeles Times, 8/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.