The National Institutes of Health will hold a public meeting Tuesday on whether the agency should regulate the prices of drugs partially developed with NIH funding. The meeting is a response to a 400% price increase last December for Abbott Laboratories' AIDS drug Norvir, which triggered a firestorm of protest from AIDS activists, doctors and regulators.
The meeting also will address whether the agency can allow companies to market generic competitors of Norvir before Abbott's patent on the drug expires.
A 1980 law allows the U.S. to intervene on drug pricing if the treatment was developed with tax dollars. Abbott said NIH grants paid for about $3.5 million of the more than $300 million spent to develop Norvir.
Abbott spokeswoman Jennifer Smoter said the higher price better reflects Norvir's market value and will support development of new drugs. She also said the 1980 law, known as the Bayh-Dole Act, "did not intend to control prices. The primary goal was to foster public-private cooperation" on innovation.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America declined to comment, saying federal antitrust laws prohibit it from discussing price issues.