The Network vs. Abbvie – the first victory in reducing cost of HIV drug

The first victory has been won – and our partner in Ukraine intends to see the case through.

On 4 October 2017, the Kyiv Economic Court of Appeal agreed to examine the patent on HIV drug ‘Aluvia’, which AbbVie has a patent on.

Following the seemingly deliberate delay tactics in September, our partner, the All Ukrainian Network of People living with HIV, is pleased that the court has now approved the examination.

A monopoly has been held on the drug in Ukraine for 13 years, and is a classic case of an unmerited, evergreening patent, resulting in Ukraine paying over the odds and being unable to treat everyone in need. To highlight this ‘groundhog day’ scenario, activists blew bubbles in the same way that they had on 19 September, which is also symbolic in urging the court to burst AbbVie’s bubble of obscene profits.

The next step is to choose an independent expert who will determine if the monopoly on this drug complies with the laws of Ukraine. “There is no reason for us to stop yet. Our next goal is to ensure that the expertize which the court approves is objective and independent,” said Serhiy Dmitriev, the Network’s Advocacy and Policy Director.

Update: Patent examiner appointed

On 11 October 2017, the Kyiv Economic Court of Appeal appointed a body for the examination of two patents held by AbbVie on lopinavir/ritonavir (tradename Aluvia/Kaletra). Within the next few months the Research Centre of Forensic Expertise on Intellectual Property of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine will analyse the patents to determine if they comply with the required criteria of novelty and innovation.

Case history

  • On 31 May 2016, the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS filed a lawsuit in the Kyiv Economic Court of Appeal claiming that the patent for lopinavir/ritonavir (Aluvia) is invalid. The Network’s claims are based on the following: the disputed patents do not meet the legal requirements of novelty and innovation, and the monopoly of the patent holder (AbbVie Inc., USA) allows it to overprice the drug. If the patent is cancelled, it would be possible to buy this drug at a third of the price, potentially allowing free treatment for an additional 125,000 people living with HIV.
  • On 6 March 2017, the Kyiv Economic Court of Appeal dismissed the lawsuit without even scheduling an examination of the patents. Reasons for the dismissal were as follow: the disputed patents do not violate the rights or the interests protected by law of the plaintiff as a patient organization and, according to judges’ opinion; it is not proven that in the case of cancelling the patent that the price of the drug will be reduced. These reasons for dismissal were completely unjustified and controversial from a legal point of view.
  • On 11 May 2017, the first session of the Kyiv Economic Court of Appeal caused great public interest due to its importance for the public health of Ukraine. Representatives of the pharmaceutical company did not appear in court, but they submitted a written request for the postponement of the legal proceedings for 6 months. The court’s panel decided to satisfy this request and postpone the trial until November 16. The Network appealed to the Court against such an unreasonably long postponement. The Court took the patients’ side and revoked the decision. The new hearing was scheduled for 19 September.
  • On 19 September, the hearing was delayed again, until today, when the patent examination was finally approved.