SGAC Letter to Abbott - January 2006 - Abbott's Greed

SGAC Letter to Abbott - January 2006

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January 2006

Miles D. White
Chairman and CEO
Abbott Laboratories
100 Abbott Park Road,
Dept 392 Bldg. AP61-2
Abbott Park, IL 60064

via fax to 847-937-1511

Dear Mr. White,

We write today on behalf of Student Global AIDS Campaign—an organization with over 85 chapters at colleges and high schools throughout the country, committed to bringing an end to HIV and AIDS around the world. We are writing to express our deep concern over Abbott’s inaction on making the essential antiretroviral Kaletra—in its new and old forms—accessible and affordable to the millions of people living with HIV and AIDS in low- and middle-income countries.

We understand that, since its participation in the ACCESS initiative, Abbott’s Access to HIV Care Program has currently includes 69 countries, including Africa, and a price for Kaletra of $500 per person per year. We applaud Abbott for its stated intentions.

We are deeply concerned, however, that the promises made by Abbott are neither truly being enacted nor truly sufficient to meet the stated goals of offering no-profit prices in developing countries around the world. New Kaletra is especially essential, since its non-refrigerated tablet form would be critical in making Kaletra useful in resource-poor settings. Unfortunately, we have come to understand that—especially as relates to new Kaletra--access promises are more often phantom pledges than real distribution and that Abbott deserves little of the praise it seeks.

Many of our members and partner groups have raised these issues with Abbott before. We are well aware of the company’s inaction. As activists concerned with truly achieving universal access to AIDS treatment—dedicated to making the US public aware of the realities of corporate action on HIV and AIDS—we are writing to demand that Abbott immediately take the following steps:

  1. Publish affordable prices for both new and old Kaletra in all low- and middle-income countries, particularly those excluded in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

    Despite having a formulation that is essential for use in the Global South, Abbott has yet to even offer a price for the improved version of Kaltera in low- and middle-income countries. We urge you to do so immediately.

    While we appreciate that Abbott has included 69 countries in its Access Program, this still leaves many in need whose lives Gilead should be working to save if it is to make any real claim to corporate citizenship. Since the AAI was launched five years ago, millions more people living in at least 40 more countries, are in immediate need of affordable access. Abbott has been urged by UNAIDS, the WHO, and activists around the world to expand the program to include 110 other countries—nations covered by programs of other US corporations. We urge Abbott to do so.

    Millions who live in countries not deemed poor enough by Abbott are in need. These “middle income” countries like Brazil and Thailand include tens of millions living on less than $2 a day, yet according to Doctors Without Borders the price of Kaletra in middle-income countries outside Africa is on average 7.4 times more expensive than in low- income countries (mean: $672 vs. $4,998). We urge abbot to publish affordable prices for these countries as well.

  2. Make good on your price promises: Register both new and old Kaletra in all ACCESS countries; seek temporary waivers until registration is complete.

    We find Abbott’s claims to be offering “no-profit” prices in 69 countries to be insincere at best, given that the most useful form of the drug has not been registered in any of them. Abbott’s plan to not even pursue registration and marketing in Africa until after completing registration in Europe makes no sense to us—and shows obvious disregard for lives in the 69 countries Abbott claims to care about.

    It is Abbott’s responsibility to submit the paperwork and work with both governments and service providers on the ground to ensure that Kaletra is available and affordable.

  3. Offer a voluntary open license to governments and companies to produce generic versions of Kaletra in the Global South.

    As we have found again and again, the best way to ensure affordable access is through fair competition. We urge Abbott to offer a clear, open, voluntary license to all qualified producers along with technology transfer (if needed) and full access to registration data or rights of reference to expedite product registration. The geographical market for the open licenses should be all non-developed countries and all market groups, i.e., private sector, public sector, NGO/mission/workplace sectors. Given Abbott’s clear focus on US and European markets, this would be a clear and easy step toward making these essential drugs affordable in the Global South.

  4. Make pediatric formulations: half-dose tablet and syrup that is more palatable and doesn’t require refrigeration.

    Reports from providers are that the current pediatric version of Kaletra (a syrup) is unpalatable for children and must be taken in such large quantities children that it makes treatment difficult at best. A small tablet and/or concentrated syrup version would solve this problem. The simple calculus that the world’s HIV-positive children do not represent a sufficient “market share” to deserve appropriate formulations they is cruel and we urge Abbott to reverse this lapse.

Given Gilead’s lack of action to date, we are writing to make our expectations clear and our intention to draw attention to these failures clearer. We urgently hope that Gilead will decide to make good on its promises and expand its efforts to provide real, affordable access. To do so would save the lives of many. But Gilead’s efforts must be more than publicity, talk, and obfuscation. We expect real action immediately.

We look forward to hearing your response and to setting up a time for further discussion of these issues. Thank you for your attention and your time.

Sincerely,