Turning Science Into Scaring' Says AIDS Healthcare Foundation

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US' largest HIV/AIDS Healthcare, Prevention and Education Provider Blasts Drug Giant for 'Quid Pro Quo' Offer to slash price on Aluvia only If Thailand Pulls Compulsory License Abbott continues to strong-arm Thailand in its drug blacklist on six other drugs.

As Abbott Laboratories concluded its Annual General Meeting in Chicago, advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the US' largest HIV/AIDS healthcare, prevention and education provider, which operates free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia, continued to press Abbott to rollback its punitive drug blacklist against Thailand on six new Abbott medicines and drop its demand that Thailand rescind a compulsory license for a generic version of another blacklisted Abbott drug, Aluvia, in order to access Abbott's version of the lifesaving AIDS drug at a significantly reduced price from the company. Yesterday, AIDS activists and advocates worldwide protested Abbott's global drug pricing and policies and its recent actions in Thailand, while this morning a smaller group of activists protested in downtown Chicago. In conjunction with the company's meeting, officials from AIDS Healthcare Foundation also traveled to Abbott Park/North Chicago -- Abbott's headquarters -- and delivered a package outlining AHF's concerns to company officials, including notice that AHF had pressed a significant institutional investor to write a letter to the company about Abbott's recent actions against Thailand.

"On its website, Abbott touts its 'Promise for Life,' a feel good statement which describes the company's goals of 'turning science into caring,'" said Terri Ford, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Director of Global Advocacy. "Abbott's strong-armed business practices -- particularly the punitive withdrawal of most new Abbott drugs in Thailand and it making its reduced price offer on Aluvia contingent upon Thailand pulling its compulsory license for the drug -- seem to suggest that the real Abbott company motto should be 'turning science into scaring.'"

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"Last week, we testified about Abbott's drug pricing policies in Thailand before the Investment Committee of California Public Employees Retirement System, one of the nation's largest pension funds, which holds nearly $318 million in Abbott stock," said Timothy Boyd, a Policy Researcher in AIDS Healthcare Foundations Public Affairs Department. "AHF officials asked the pension fund to write to Abbott regarding the AIDS drug pricing and access issues in Thailand. In response, officials indicated that CalPERS would send a letter to Miles D. White, Abbott's Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board concerning Abbott's recent actions and its pricing and policies in Thailand."

As part of a worldwide day of actions and protests against Abbott yesterday, AIDS Healthcare Foundation/India Cares and Love Life Society (Consortium of HIV positive people in Delhi) together participated in a rally organized by the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+) in India, where AHF operates four free AIDS treatment clinics. There were about 200 people, including patients, staff and physicians from AHF/India Cares, who assembled at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, India for a rally, protest and march expressing their solidarity against Abbott's punitive actions and praise for the Thai's government stand.

"This whole issue triggered by Abbott's recent actions is bigger than Thailand and bigger than HIV/AIDS -- it's really about multi-national drug companies like Abbott using developing world countries to expand their markets as the markets in the US and other Western nations dwindle -- Big Pharma's ravenous thirst to expand its global market share," added AHF's Michael Weinstein.

"Abbott has been the army scout out ahead of Big Pharma's troops in this industry-wide push for global market expansion. A few years ago, the pharmaceutical industry stumbled and fell when it sued the Government of South Africa -- one of the countries hardest-hit by AIDS -- over generic AIDS drugs, and the industry quickly withdrew its lawsuit following tremendous worldwide condemnation of the move. Today, we strongly urge Abbott and the drug industry at large to seriously reconsider the ramifications of their actions on pricing and access policies for AIDS and other medicines worldwide."

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