Abbott To Reduce Cost of Kaletra in Thailand, Other Developing CountriesAbbott Laboratories on Tuesday said that it plans to reduce the cost of its antiretroviral drug Kaletra in Thailand and more than 40 low- and low-middle-income countries by more than half, the Chicago Tribune reports. The company said it will provide Kaletra in the countries for $1,000 per patient annually, which is less than the cost of generic versions of the drug, instead of the current price of $2,200 (Miller, Chicago Tribune, 4/10). Abbott in March announced that it had withdrawn applications to sell seven new drugs in Thailand in response to the country's decision to issue a compulsory license for Kaletra. Thai Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla in January signed the compulsory license, which allows Thailand to produce a lower-cost version of Kaletra, into law. Abbott had previously offered to lower Kaletra's cost to $167 per patient monthly, but representatives from the health ministry said the offer was still too high (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/10). In a meeting with the Thai government on Tuesday, Abbott offered to reduce the cost of 30 Kaletra tablets to about $100, a 40% drop from its earlier proposal, Suchart Chongtrasert -- a senior official at the health ministry's Food and Drug Administration, who helped negotiate the cost -- said (AFP/Todayonline.com, 4/11). Abbott said it will continue with its plan to refrain from introducing some new drugs in Thailand (Chicago Tribune, 4/10). Kaletra costs more than $7,500 per patient annually in the U.S., and Abbott provides the drug at a cost of $500 per patient annually in 69 of the poorest developing countries, including all of Africa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/15/06).
The World Health Organization, which contacted Abbott about making the pricing change, welcomed the decision, the Wall Street Journal reports (Johnson, Wall Street Journal, 4/11). "We are seeing many more patients develop resistance to first-line antiretroviral drugs who will require second-line drugs," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, adding, "Clearly a high number of people in 40 countries will benefit" (Dixon, Reuters, 4/10). The AIDS Healthcare Foundation said Abbott's decision was "an enormous victory" for HIV/AIDS advocates, the Journal reports. However, AHF President Michael Weinstein called it "highly vindictive" on Abbott's part not to reinstate the new drug applications in Thailand, adding that the company is "admitting that [it is] wrong" but that it "still feel[s] the need to punish Thailand" (Wall Street Journal, 4/11). Suchart said the proposal shows that Abbott "understands" the position of the Thai government, adding that Abbott did not discuss its ban on new drugs in Thailand (AFP/Todayonline.com, 4/11). According to the Journal, Abbott has said its decision to suspend new medicines is due to concerns about patent integrity and the need to fund continuing drug research (Wall Street Journal, 4/11). The new agreement "takes HIV pricing out of the debate, and now we hope we can have a thoughtful debate about a system society needs in order to bring forth new medicine while increasing affordability," Abbott spokesperson Melissa Brotz said (Chicago Tribune, 4/10).