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Abbott targeted over pricing of its Aids drug Kaletra

Health campaigners argue the pharma company has a 'monopolistic' hold on the drug

A US advocacy group has launched a campaign against Abbott Laboratories and its “monopolistic” hold over its HIV/Aids drug Kaletra.

Public Citizen wants governments of poorer countries to issue compulsory licences for generic copies of Kaletra (lopinavir+ritonavir).

Since cutting its prices in 2007 the company charges the world's poorest countries $400 for the potentially life-saving antiretroviral, while middle-income developing countries pay $1,000-4,000.

Kaletra is considered a crucial weapon in the global battle against Aids and is becoming increasingly important as resistance against other first-line drugs grows.

Public Citizen characterised its campaign as an effort to fight big pharma's influence, which they see as preventing wider use by governments of powers to mandate generic licensing.

In 2007 the company was criticised for refusing to launch Aluvia, a heat stable version of Kaletra, in Thailand after that country's government broke the patent on Kaletra.

Campaigners also argue Abbott is preventing wider access to lifesaving medicines and has slowed medical innovation, by preventing Kaletra's ritonavir component from being used to enhance the effectiveness of other drugs.

Peter Maybarduk, director of the Global Access to Medicines Program at Public Citizen, said: “Freeing these drugs for competition and co-formulation could save countless lives.”

“If patent holders and the pharmaceutical industry will not negotiate, then health advocates will pursue compulsory measures to break their monopolies on lifesaving medicines.”

The launch of the campaign against Abbott comes just days after US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, endorsed the dream of an “AIDS-free generation”, in a speech at the National Institutes of Health.

14th November 2011

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