Federal Court in California Orders GSK CEO To Answer Questions in AIDS Healthcare Foundation Lawsuit on AZT Patent
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Charles Eick in California has ruled that GlaxoSmithKline CEO Jean-Pierre Garnier must answer additional questions in the lawsuit brought against the company by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which seeks to block the company's patent for its antiretroviral drug Retrovir, more commonly known as AZT or zidovudine, AFX News reports (AFX News, 4/4). AHF, the largest nongovernmental provider of health care services for people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, in April 2003 filed an amended lawsuit in federal court against GSK, challenging the company's patents for three of its top-selling antiretroviral drugs. AHF's original suit, which was dismissed in March 2003, charged that several of GSK's patents for its antiretroviral drugs are invalid and that its prices "exorbitantly exceed" its licensing, manufacturing and distribution costs. In the new suit, AHF says that NIH, with federal funding, developed Retrovir in 1964 as a cancer drug and that NIH scientists tested the drug as an HIV medication 17 months before GSK filed its patent in the mid-1980s. Under U.S. law, drugs developed with federal funds must be sold at a reasonable price that could, if necessary, be determined by the courts. AHF alleges that the patent on Retrovir locked out competitors and allowed the company to price the drug at 32 times its manufacturing cost. Because Retrovir was developed with federal funding, the drug and subsequent derivative drugs -- such as the combination drugs Combivir and Trizivir, which include Retrovir -- should be sold at more reasonable rates, according to the suit (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29/03). Garnier answered questions in a deposition with AHF lawyers in January, but AHF attorneys said that he "left some questions unanswered," according to AFX News. Eick ruled that AHF could continue Garnier's deposition (AFX News, 4/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.