Abbott settles HIV pricing claims with pharmacies

By Reuters
Posted March 23 at 5:55 p.m.

Abbott Laboratories has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by CVS Caremark Corp., Rite Aid Corp. and other retailers who accused it of unfairly boosting the price of HIV drugs, a company spokeswoman said.

The pact does not resolve legal claims brought by rival drug maker GlaxoSmithKline, which is still proceeding with a court case against Abbott. The group of retailers, which also includes Walgreen Co., Safeway Co. and others, had been at trial against Abbott alongside Glaxo.

The case, alleging antitrust violations over its drugs Norvir and Kaletra, has been in trial before a federal judge in Oakland, California, for the past few weeks.

Norvir plays a key role in AIDS-fighting cocktails because it can boost the effectiveness of other drugs. The plaintiffs accused Abbott of raising Norvir’s price by 400 percent in an effort to harm its competitors whose drugs were dependent on being used in combination with Norvir.

The retailers and others have agreed to settle the case for an undisclosed amount, Abbott spokeswoman Adelle Infante said on Wednesday.

A Rite Aid spokeswoman declined to comment beyond confirming the settlement. A CVS representative said the company does not discuss ongoing litigation, and representatives from the other pharmacies were not immediately available to comment.

Abbott settled those claims “to eliminate the uncertainty of litigation and put this matter behind us,” Infante said.

GlaxoSmithKline and Abbott are scheduled to deliver closing arguments in the case on Thursday. A Glaxo spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though a court filing shows Glaxo alleges hundreds of millions in lost profits from Abbott’s pricing.

Abbott also said it settled claims brought by a separate class of direct purchaser plaintiffs. An attorney for those plaintiffs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Smithkline Beecham Corporation, doing business as GlaxoSmithKline, v. Abbott Laboratories, 07-5702.

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