Patients demand AbbVie’s price bubble is burst – key HIV drug out of reach

AbbVie’s monopoly has hiked prices – it’s time to burst the bubble and get prices back down to earth. Activists are campaigning – and UNAIDS agrees.

On 19 September 2017, activists from the All Ukrainian Network of People Living wth HIV released millions of soap bubbles into air outside the Kyiv Economic Court of Appeal. The demonstration was to highlight how Ukraine will overpay 227 million hryvnias (approx $8.6m USD) this year if it purchases the branded drug ‘Aluvia’ for people living with HIV.

Patients demand that judges examine the unmerited patents, know as evergreening, on the HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir. The monopoly for this drug has been in place in Ukraine for 13 years. AbbVie is the patent holder.

The Network believes that the patents protecting this drug go against the patent law, and reversing this decision would allow other producers to enter the Ukrainian market, and bring the prices down. By purchasing cheaper drugs, Ukraine would be able to treat an additional 125,000 patients.

“The state budget spends almost half of its money for fighting AIDS on this one monopolized drug ‘Aluvia’ at $ 61 per pack,” explains Serhiy Dmitriev, the Policy and Advocacy Director at the Network.

“It is important to understand that the disputed patents do not protect anything new. The combination of lopinavir/ritonavir was invented in the 1980s and therefore the drug is no longer an innovative one. In many countries the patent for the drug was either not issued at all or was cancelled a long time ago. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has sent a special letter to the Ukrainian court to support the cancellation on the patent for ‘Aluvia’. This is the first time in the history of Ukraine that such an influential international organization has supported patients in a judicial dispute,” said Serhiy Kondratiuk, the Network’s expert on intellectual property and access to treatment.

This is the first time in the history of Ukraine that such an influential international organization has supported patients in a judicial dispute.

Hearing postponed

After the action, the Kyiv Economic Court of Appeals heard the case under the chairmanship of Judge Serhiy Sotnikov. The judges did not consider the merits of the case and, at the request of the AbbVie lawyers, postponed the hearings until 4 October 2017. This delays the solution again, at a time when the state and international donors are throwing hundreds of millions of hryvnias away.

While the judges are hesitating, the 125,000 additional patients are still waiting. The Network will continue to challenge this patent, viewing the request by AbbVie to postpone as a deliberate delay tactic in order to continue making exorbitant profits in the meantime.

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