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PHARMA: Spitzer looks into Norvir pricing controversy

THCB readers will recall that last year Abbott radically increased the price of its HIV drug Norvir mostly in order to make competitors drugs taken with it more expensive than a combo pill it was launching. Well apparently NY state attorney-general Eliot Spitzer has already opened an inquiry into the issue and several New York state agencies and HIV pressure groups are piling in. In the most recent exchange, the New York Department of Health, which of course runs the biggest and most expensive Medicaid program in the US (yes, more than California’s!) wrote in a letter to an HIV group:

    "We have requested representatives from Abbott to present their documentation regarding this claim [that the price hike would not harm Medicaid programs], however we are not yet convinced that this is the case."

You may love the bureaucratic understatement, but the intent is clear and Spitzer has proved his ability to go after corporate "bad guys" enough that Abbott may have to tread carefully here.

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  1. The real tragedy is that voters might fail to realize the hospital fight is being waged not by workers but by two millionares defending their greed-inflated salaries from Spitzer’s reforms. The head of the Greater New York Hospital Association was the man with the money behind the recently-pulled ads, who got the attention he wanted and is now sending workers to the front like so many puppets. Ask yourself: How often do real workers with a grievance have the money to blitzkrieg a newly appointed governor with TV ads? Why has it taken so little time to move from silence toward Pataki, a corrupt governor who hired his own nephew to rebuild the Javits center and helped destroy affordable housing in New York, to outrage toward the first pro-worker reformist we’ve had as governor since Cuomo? Where were the ads for the American Airlines workers cheated out of their retirement? The answer: nowhere, because the real poor can’t afford them. When have you ever seen such a well-orchestrated campaign emerge so quickly against an actual threat to wages and patients’ rights? Never, because real workers are caught scrambling for their pittance. And why would workers not have arisen against Pataki before Spitzer? Could it be that the wealthy are once again spinning negative publicity to further their own incredibly selfish ends? It’s time to realize that the anti-Spitzer campaign is yet another case of anti-progressive sabotage, a way to counteract the effects of a free election. The real motive is to keep Spitzer from redirecting money away from wealthy bosses and toward better patient care, and perhaps to stop the man we elected from doing precisely what we elected him to do.

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