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Aetna Drops Suit on Abbott Drug; No Deal to Change AIDS Drug Price
  Chicago Tribune
May 28, 2004
Bruce Japsen
Aetna Inc., the nation's third-largest health insurer, decided Thursdayto drop its lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories, just two days afterclaiming the drugmaker violated antitrust laws when it hiked the price ofits AIDS drug Norvir by 400 percent. The suit was filed Tuesday in USDistrict Court in San Francisco. Aetna now intends to discuss with "Abbottthe basis for its repricing action," the Hartford, Conn.-based insurer saidin a statement. Aetna officials gave no further comment on the decision.
"We were advised today by Aetna that it was unilaterally droppingwithout prejudice its lawsuit regarding Norvir," Abbott spokespersonJennifer Smoter said, adding that she did not know what motivated Aetna todismiss the suit. Smoter said Abbott has no plans to cut a new deal onNorvir pricing with Aetna. "Abbott maintains its pricing decision wasappropriate and lawful. We are standing by our pricing action. We are notchanging anything." Abbott said the price hike was warranted because newstudies showing that Norvir works as a booster for other companies' AIDSdrugs meant it was undervalued in the market.
Abbott still faces similar suits from AIDS and consumer groups, andattorneys general in Illinois and Texas are investigating whether thecompany violated antitrust laws. Several members of Congress have called onFederal Trade Commission to intervene. The nonprofit Essential InventionsInc. has asked the National Institutes of Health to consider letting othercompanies make generic copies of Norvir prior to 2014, when Abbott's patentexpires. Abbott said a $3.47 million government grant helped it developNorvir, but the drug's total development costs were over $300 million.
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