For immediate release: August 4, 2004

For more information contact:
Robert Weissman, 202-387-8030; 202-360-1844 (cell)
James Love, +33-626-917-934 (cell)
Joy Spencer, 202-387-8030; 703-727-6761 (cell)

Today the National Institutes of Health denied a request by Essential Inventions, Inc. that the government exercise its authority to permit generic competition for an overpriced drug invented on a government grant.

Essential Inventions, Inc., a nonprofit corporation created to distribute affordable public health and other inventions, in January petitioned the government to exercise its "march-in" rights under the federal Bayh-Dole Act and authorize generic competition for the anti-AIDS drug Norvir.

Essential Inventions also filed a march-in petition related to Xalatan, used to treat glaucoma and marketed by Pfizer. That request remains pending.

Invented on a government grant, Norvir is marketed by Abbott Laboratories. After a recent price increase, Norvir is now 5 to 10 times more expensive in the United States than in other high-income countries.

"Essential Inventions is asking the Bush Administration to adopt a simple rule -- U.S. consumers should not pay more for drugs invented on government grants," said Essential Inventions President James Love. "We will appeal the NIH decision to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson," said Love.

"The NIH erred in today's decision," said Robert Weissman, Essential Inventions General Counsel. "The plain language of the Bayh-Dole Act says that government funded inventions should be made 'available to public on reasonable terms.' There is nothing reasonable about paying 5 to 10 times more in the United States for Norvir than Abbott charges consumers anywhere else on earth."

"The public investment in Norvir was huge," said Love. "Not only did the U.S. government give Abbott the $3.5 million grant that led to the invention of Norvir, but it did so at the most risky stage of development. The 'risk adjusted' value of the government's investment (taking into account projects that do not succeed) was more than $200 million. Moreover, the NIH spent millions more on more than 600 other Norvir grants. Abbott's actual investments in Norvir at the time of FDA approval were probably close to $30 million. In any case, Abbott has made billions off this government-funded invention, even before the company raised the price by 400 percent."


For more information on Essential Invention's Norvir request, see