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PUBPAT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TESTIFIES BEFORE NIH REGARDING KEY AIDS DRUG PATENTS: PUBPAT Supports Request Asking Government to Allow the Production of Generic Drug

NEW YORK -- May 24, 2004 --  Public Patent Foundation Executive Director Dan Ravicher will testify before the National Institutes of Health tomorrow during a hearing regarding whether or not the government should allow the production of generic versions of Abbott Laboratories' AIDS drug Norvir, generically known as ritonavir, which failed as an AIDS drug itself, but which has an unmatched ability to boost the effectiveness of other AIDS drugs.

The hearing is part of the NIH's review of a request filed by consumer advocates asking the government to "march-in" on Abbott's Norvir patent rights after Abbott raised the price of Norvir 400% last fall. Since the NIH funded Abbott's development of Norvir, a rarely invoked law known as the Bayh-Doyle Act requires that any inventions resulting from public grants must be made available on reasonable terms. If they are not, the government may "march-in" by exercising a license on any resulting patent rights so that the results of publicly funded research are made available to the public. Essential Inventions, the consumer group that filed the request, argues that Abbott's raising of the per capsule price of Norvir from $1.71 to $8.57 was unreasonable and that the government should exercise its Bayh-Doyle march-in rights so that generic pharmaceutical companies can make a ritonavir capsule without being threatened by Abbott's patents.

Mr. Ravicher will testify regarding the patent landscape surrounding Norvir and opine that the NIH should not deny the request because Abbott may have other patents, not subject to the government's march-in right, that potentially cover Norvir. The testimony will parallel statements made in a letter written to the NIH by Mr. Ravicher earlier this Spring.

"We have accepted the NIH's invitation to testify during the ritonavir march-in hearing in order to ensure that a clear analysis of the patent issues relevant to the march-in request are presented," said Mr. Ravicher. "Although opponents of the request have attempted to obfuscate the issues, there is absolutely no patent related reason to not enthusiastically support the request and allow taxpayers to reap the benefits of the research that they funded."

In addition to Mr. Ravicher, also testifying at the three-hour hearing Tuesday morning will be former Senator Birch Bayh, for whom the Bayh-Doyle act is partly named, and Jeff Leiden, President and COO Pharmaceutical Products Group, Abbott Laboratories.

A copy of PUBPAT's letter to the NIH regarding the Norvir march-in request can be found at PUBPAT Advocacy to Policy Makers.
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