Discount Price Offered for Kaletra/Aluvia - What Abbott must do next

For Immediate Release
11 April 2007

Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcome Abbott’s decision to offer developing countries a further 55 per cent reduction of its price for Kaletra/Aluvia, a key HIV medicine. However, Oxfam and MSF will continues to support the Thailand in maintaining its compulsory licenses as an alternative channel for accessing affordable life-saving medicines. As a next step Abbott should publish a comprehensive list of all countries eligible for the price cut.

Oxfam and MSF also call on Abbott to refrain from further pressuring the Thai government to withdraw compulsory licenses that can reduce prices on vital life saving medicines.

‘It is clear that by issuing a compulsory license the Thai government has been able to make a difference on how pharmaceutical companies set their prices in developing country markets. One might wonder why Abbott had not lowered its price prior to the government’s move to issue a compulsory license’ Yowalak Thiarachow, Oxfam’s Country Programme Manager said.

Last year Abbott made a similar announcement that it was offering a price of $500 per patient per year (for the heat stable version) in least developed countries but many of those countries are still waiting for the drugs to be made available.

"If Abbott are sincere in their offer they should publish a comprehensive list of all countries eligible for the heat stable form of Kaletra/Aluvia at a cost of $1,000 and $500 per patient per year. The list should also indicate in which of these countries the new heat stable formulation is registered and available and in which countries the registration is still pending or is yet to be started" said Paul Cawthorne, MSF's Head of Mission in Thailand. "Without these assurances this offer is nothing more than a PR stunt. We need to see the tablets reaching the patients"

Abbott’s decision comes after Thai Ministry of Public Health issued a compulsory license for the Kaletra in an effort to ensure government procurement of a generic version and thus a massive cost savings to provide the drug to patients on the national health security scheme. Currently Kaletra costs 72,000 Baht (US$ 2,060) per patient per year in Thailand. In 2007 at least 50,000 people affected by HIV will require a second line ARV drug including Kaletra. The cost of providing all these people life saving second line medicines would be approximately 3.6 billion Baht (US$ 102 million).

‘Abbotts decision confirms the effectiveness of compulsory licensing as one of the main tools in promoting generic competition and serves as a deterrent for pharmaceutical companies to retain their monopoly and thus set unaffordable prices. It also confirms the crucial role of generic competition in setting up a benchmark for low prices,’ Thiarachow added.

Thailand is fully within its lawful rights under the international TRIPS Agreement and under national laws to issue compulsory licenses for priority medicines for non-commercial use within the health system. However, four weeks ago, in a direct retaliation for that decision, Abbott took the unprecedented step to withdraw the registration of seven of its medicines from the Thai drug regulatory process. One of the seven medicines in question is Aluvia, the heat-stable form of Kaletra that is most appropriate for use in a tropical country like Thailand. Abbott’s action coldly blocks access of people in need of these drugs for their survival.

Despite its announcement of a lower price for Kaletra and Aluvia, Abbott has still not reversed its decision to withdraw the registration of the seven medicines from the Thai market. Abbott should, without any further delay, re-register the seven medicines in question to ensure that people in need can access these drugs quickly. Otherwise, the announcement would mean nothing as the drug will not be available in the Thai market


For further information please contact:
Oxfam - Kingkorn Narintarakul at 02 6567615 est. 110 or 0815308339
MSF – Paul Cawthorne at 0819873206

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