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Was a Juror Removed from a Massive AIDS Pharmaceutical Case for Being Gay?

The AP notes that a massive case between two rival pharmaceutical companies is headed to court today, but the focus is not on the substance of the case, but on the sexuality of a juror:

NorvirThe case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday centers on whether Abbott Laboratories broke antitrust laws when it increased the price of its popular and vital AIDS drug Norvir by 400 percent in 2007. But broader public attention likely will be given to the three-judge panel's look at whether Abbott wrongfully removed a juror in the case brought by competitor SmithKlineBeecham.

The cost increase angered many in the gay community. SmithKlineBeecham, meanwhile, claims it was meant to harm the launch of its new AIDS treatment, which requires use of Norvit. And the company contends "Juror B" was removed simply because he was gay.

"It's a big deal," said Vik Amar, University of California, Davis professor. "The headlines from this case are going to be about antitrust law — it will be about sexual orientation in the jury pool."

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  1. It didn't anger gay people, it angered people living with HIV and it angered service providers (doctors, nurses, social workers) who see this for the greedy money-grab it is.

    Abbott developed and marketed an HIV medication called norvir that required individuals to take 6 pills every 12 hours along with other HIV medications to treat HIV. The thing is, Norvir at that dose comes with insufferable side effects. And its efficacy is in question because the high pill burden and side effect burden makes it difficult to keep up with the regimen.

    Abbott got $35M from NIH to develop this drug but sunk another $200M of their own money into R&D. They have a hug interest in recouping the cost. But the product sucks.

    Except they now know that at much lower doses (and lower side effect burden), Norvir works better at helping other drugs fight HIV rather than fight HIV directly. So, yay...right? Abbott developed a drug with a purpose!!

    Except, now where Abbott was making money off of 12 pills per person per day, now Norvir was only prescribed in a single pill daily or for people with advanced HIV, perhaps 2 pills daily.

    Woops...it will take forever for Abbott to recover that $200M (screw the federal $35M...meh). So...rather than take a loss on a product they developed that really didn't work for the purpose it was initially designed for, they tried to figure out a way to recover their R&D costs because the product is now being used for something else.

    Waa Waa Waa!!! If the product wasn't effective at boosting other HIV medications, Abbott would have had to eat the entire $200M expense. Fortunately, they found another use. Now they want to gouge the consumer for it.

    Big pharma is really necessary, I get it. We have a lot of good drugs to keep us alive longer. But this is a simple act of greed and taking advantage of a situation. I hope they get slapped hard.

    By the way, Abbott changed their name to AbbVie. Why? Because of this case and the bad press they keep getting because of their handling of Norvir.

    Posted by: Jay | Sep 18, 2013 4:18:20 PM


  2. I don't see how excluding a juror because he's gay is illegal. Granted I am not familiar with this particular kind of trial, but aren't you permitted a certain number of exclusions without an explanation?

    Posted by: Hagatha | Sep 18, 2013 6:25:32 PM


  3. Hagatha,

    I believe they excluded the juror for a multitude of reasons:

    1. He was the only juror who had knowledge of the product in question.

    2. He had friends who died from AIDS-related illnesses who may have, perhaps, been taking said drug.

    3. He worked for the courts

    Now those might be simple excuses to cover up rejection of the juror because he is, in fact, gay, but all three seem like rational reasons to judge the juror's impartiality.

    Posted by: RJ | Sep 19, 2013 11:05:02 AM


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