Actions in Colombia
Colombia Fines Abbott Laboratories for Overpricing Kaletra
On February 26, 2014, Colombia’s Superintendent of Industry and Commerce penalized AbbVie with a fine of 3,080 million pesos, equivalent to more than 1.5 million USD, for selling AIDS treatment lopinavir + ritonavir (marketed by AbbVie, formerly Abbott Laboratories, under the brand names Kaletra and Aluvia) 53% to 66% above the reference price established by the National Commission on Medicine Pricing (CNPM). It is Colombia’s first fine of a pharmaceutical company for price abuse. It is the maximum fine the law permits. And though it is a fraction of the cost of Abbott’s price abuses, it is progress and a precedent that has caused a stir in Colombia.
Colombian civil society groups have been fighting to regulate Abbott’s bad behavior since 2008, and have won consistent victories. During that time Kaletra’s Colombia prices have been cut from 3,600 USD per person per year (ppy) in 2008 to 670 USD ppy today, due in large part to the Working Group of NGOs on HIV (la Mesa), the Colombian Network of People Living with HIV (RECOLVIH), Fundación IFARMA and Misión Salud. Colombia’s GDP per capita was 7,748 USD in 2012.
In 2008, civil society groups asked Abbott Laboratories to license generic competition with its patented Kaletra, in exchange for royalty payments. Abbott did not respond. The groups sought a compulsory license from government ministries, which deferred. Finally the groups filed an accion popular, a lawsuit analogous to a private attorney general action, seeking to compel the government to meet its constitutional obligation to protect the fundamental right to health. As the case proceeded, advocacy work led Colombia to reinstate parallel importation, a practice by which countries can shop for better prices on the world market, and establish a reference price for Kaletra. A health emergency decree signed by President Alvaro Uribe in 2010 and a subsequent 2011 law tightened the rules and practices of medicine pricing. Colombian courts ultimately stopped short of ordering a compulsory license, but ruled that the Ministry of Health had violated collective rights to public health by not enforcing the Kaletra price regulation. Courts also ordered that Kaletra be kept on the parallel imports list and that a government commission investigate fining Abbott for overcharging the government.
|"Acting in concert around the world, we will be better able to fight Abbott's abuses. This day of action marks our campaign’s beginning. We will be expanding; working for access and open competition for more medicines and with allies in new countries as we move forward.”
-- Luz Marina Umbasia. lawyer for Colombian treatment advocacy groups
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