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July 8, 2009

Abbott Wins Appeal on Norvir Antitrust Case

A federal appellate court has ruled in favor of Abbott Laboratories and dismissed claims that the company is guilty of maintaining a monopoly in the HIV treatment marketplace and overcharging for its protease inhibitor Norvir (ritonavir).

In 2003, Abbott raised the price of Norvir by 400 percent. Because most other protease inhibitors require a low-dose of Norvir to boost their blood levels and render them more effective and/or easier to take, this meant that the overall cost of treatment with those drugs increased dramatically. Though Abbott hiked up the price of Norvir, it failed to do the same for its own combination pill, Kaletra, which includes low-dose Norvir and another protease inhibitor lopinavir.

The Service Employees International Union Health and Welfare Fund, a plaintiff in the law suit, argued that raising the price of Norvir, but not Kaletra, amounted to maintaining a monopoly in the protease inhibitor market. The union had previously settled with Abbott after a suit in a lower court. That settlement involved a $10 million payment to nonprofit groups that help people with HIV, with additional payments of $17.5 million if the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision. However, according to an opinion filed July 7 by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by judges Mary Schroeder, Stephen Reinhardt and Pamela Ann Rymer, no violation of antitrust statutes was evident.  

The union said that the ruling doesn’t affect the original $10 million payment. Additional suits against Abbott over the Norvir price increase are still pending in other jurisdictions.

Search: Abbott, court case, appeal, antitrust, Service Employees International Union, SEIU, Norvir, ritonavir, protease inhibitors

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