Activists Take on Abbott Laboratories in a Tug-of-War for Access to AIDS Medicines in Colombia

Activists Take on Abbott Laboratories in a Tug-of-War for Access to AIDS Medicines in Colombia
International advocates stage tug-of-war to call for Compulsory License for Kaletra

Protest at 2:30pm CDT (3:30pm EST) outside Banamex Media Center (International AIDS Conference (IAC), Mexico City)
3pm CDT (4:00pm EST) Press Conference in Room 1 (Azteca)

Peter Maybarduk, Essential Action
(in México)
+52 55 1902-1954
[email protected]

David Morales Alba, Comunicación Positiva
(en México)
+52 55 2819-2970
[email protected]

Mexico City, Mexico – Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 2:30 PM, at the entrance to the IAC press center –
A large international coalition of activists, people living with HIV/AIDS, and medical and law students are calling on the Colombian government to live up to its humanitarian responsibility to provide access to generic AIDS medications.

People with HIV in clinical need of treatment and their allies will have a tug-of-war with drug-maker Abbott Laboratories, a competition that only the Colombian government can decide.

“My government must not let its people die when there exists a simple, affordable solution to helping people with HIV/AIDS live normal lives,” says Francisco Rossi of Colombian NGO IFARMA-HAI (Health Action International).

On 16 July, 2008, an alliance of Colombian civil society groups filed a request for their government to issue an open compulsory license on the life-saving anti-retroviral drug lopinavir/ritonavir, patented and sold by Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories as Kaletra. Several months earlier, on 7 April, 2008, Colombian civil society asked Abbott directly to voluntarily license its patent and allow generic competition. To date, Abbott has not responded to the groups’ request.

The Colombian government is empowered under WTO (World Trade Organization) and Andean Community rules to issue compulsory licenses, authorizing generic competition with patented medicines to protect public health, in exchange for a reasonable royalty to the patent holder.

“The Colombian government must partner with patients, instead of with Abbott, following the example of the many countries that have issued compulsory licenses,” says Mary Carol Jennings from the American
Medical Student Association (AMSA). “This means making generic medications available at low cost to people whose lives depend on them.”

Following the tug-of-war, the coalition will host a press conference in Press Conference Room 1 (“Azteca”) announcing the support of dozens of patients’ groups and public health advocacy organizations from around the world for the Colombian compulsory license request.

Kaletra currently costs the Colombian public sector approximately $1683USD per patient, per year, and prices for private health organizations reach $4449. Peru and Bolivia, by contrast, pay less than $800 for generic lopinavir/ritonavir. Through a recent accord with the Clinton Foundation, prices in the region could fall to $550. By issuing a compulsory license and allowing generics firms to compete with Abbott’s Kaletra, the Colombian government could save well over $1million USD annually. These savings could be invested in scaling up HIV/AIDS treatment and strengthening Colombia’s health system.

Mesa de Organizaciones que trabajan en VIH/SIDA (en Bogotá)
* +57-1-338-4991 * [email protected] *