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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Drug Company's Hidden Agenda

August 14, 2004

Your editorial "Bitter Pill for HIV Patients" (Aug. 10) correctly identifies the absurdity of Abbott Laboratories' claims that although it raised the price of Norvir, no one will be adversely affected. Norvir is a drug that every person with HIV will at some time require. The truth is that 40% of patients in the U.S. are not covered by government programs and will have to pay the increase.

There is a hidden agenda as well -- the current form of Norvir causes nausea, diarrhea and elevated fats in the blood. Abbott promises a new formulation that will be much better tolerated. Drug companies must base the price of new formulations on the price of the older form. In this case, the base price of the new form of Norvir will be four times higher than it might otherwise have been, ensuring windfall profits for years to come. A poison pill inside the bitter pill?

Howard A. Grossman MD

New York

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