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Abbot Labs-AIDS Profiteer
The second day of the International AIDS Conference in Vancouver (July
8, 1996) ACT UP chapters from the United States and Europe confronted
Abbot Laboratory in front of hundreds of scientists, and participants
at the conference. This is the text of the press release criticizing
Abbot for price gouging and failure to provide people with AIDS who
take their drug life saving information. For this reason 50 activists
descended on their booth, applying stickers which read "AIDS
Profiteer" and "Greed equals Death" . We then presented them with the
Golden Funeral Urn.
ACT UP AWARDS GOLDEN URN TO:
for killer pricing policies.
Under the garish Abbott tower, in the center of the exhibition hall at
BC Place Exhibition hall., members of ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to
Unleash Power) presented a Golden Urn to Abbott Laboratories, the
maker of Ritonavir, a new protease inhibitor that costs patients
$8,000 US per year, the highest price of any of the protease
inhibitors. ACT UP's Golden Urns are given to drug companies, public
officials and organizations whose policies and actions are hastening
the deaths of people with AIDS.
Abbott has refused to justify this price and has rejected calls for an
independent audit of its research and manufacturing costs. Activists
have repeatedly met with Abbott officials to try to convince them to
lower this price, which can contribute to overall drug costs of as
much as $30,000 US per person year.
"Abbott is exploiting people with AIDS by charging all the market will
bear," commented ACT UP Golden Gate member Stephen LeBlanc.
"Ritonavir's cost puts the drug out of reach for millions of people
with HIV." Added ACT UP Philadelphia's Steven Parmer, "Public health
institutions have a choice: go bankrupt trying to pay for these
potentially life-saving medications, or deny access to whole nations
of people with AIDS."
Abbott's deceit also limited access before FDA approval to a 1,000
person lottery, claiming it had severely limited drug supply. Two
months later, after FDA approval, they suddenly had enough drug to
stock every pharmacy in the United States.
Abbott has balked at providing crucial patient education information
to US clinics. Patient information is important because Ritonavir is
associated with numerous potentially lethal drug interactions. The
drug blocks an enzyme in the liver that helps the body process many
drugs. Without this enzyme, patients can overdose on common drugs they
are taking including antihistamines, antifungal drugs,
antidepressants, tuberculosis treatments, and many more.
Thus far, Abbott has failed to perform crucial drug interaction
studies on many of the drugs listed above, as well as other protease
inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
Abbott also delayed research into HIVIG - a treatment that may prevent
perinatal transmission - for over two years by refusing to release the
drug to NIH researchers. Only after the drug was bought by another
company did trials begin.
"Ritonavir can be dangerous and it costs too much," said ACT UP
Atlanta member Roger Garza, "The company continually refuses to pay
for the studies needed to give us answers on why the drug fails many
people and the huge unanswered questions about serious drug