Corporate Compliance

Report: Abbott raised price of one AIDS drug to increase sales of other

Compliance Monitor, January 25, 2007

According to a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month, Abbott Laboratories increased the price of Norvir, its older AIDS drug, by 400% in an effort to help enhance sales of its newer AIDS drug Kaletra. The report also cites a three-year, ongoing investigation into the price boost by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan because the increase may violate Illinois' consumer fraud law.

The report cites e-mails and previously undisclosed documents that allegedly reveal proposed tactics to make Norvir less attractive to patients, such as pulling the drug from the market or selling Norvir only in a foul-tasting liquid form. Eventually, the company settled on a price increase, says the report.

Abbott says the raise in price aimed to reflect Norvir's value as a treatment because it was being underestimated, the newspaper says.

Whatever the reason, Kaletra became a cheaper alternative treatment for AIDS patients.

In 2004, the FDA issued a warning letter to Abbott requesting that the company remove from its Web site a cost chart claiming that "Norvir has the lowest daily cost of all antiretroviral drugs." According to the warning letter, the chart compared the daily costs of antiretroviral drugs at "commonly prescribed milligrams per day." However, the Norvir was listed at a cost that reflected a dose of the drug that was substandard, the letter said. Abbott complied with the request to stop using the chart.

Cara Smith, a spokesperson for the Illinois attorney general's office, said she has no comment about the investigation at this time. Abbott did not return a call for comment.

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