Jury: Abbott breached GSK deal, but not competition law

A California jury didn't buy GlaxoSmithKline's accusations that Abbott Laboratories tried to quash competition in the AIDS drug market, but it did award GSK $3.5 million for breach of a licensing pact. The case hinged on Abbott's sudden price hike on its anti-HIV drug Norvir, used in many drug-cocktail combinations to combat the virus.

GSK had argued that the increase--which quadrupled Norvir's price--hindered other drugmakers' ability to compete with Abbott's combo drug Kaletra, which includes Norvir. GSK blamed Abbott for a loss of $570 million in profits on its combo drug Lexiva, which also includes Norvir. Abbott said it boosted the price for business reasons, because doctors were using it at lower doses to improve patients' response to other meds, rather than at the previously used higher doses, which brought in more revenue.

The jury sided with Abbott almost completely, not only ruling against Glaxo's anti-competition claims, but awarding only $3.5 million in damages. The jury foreman told Bloomberg that panel members figured Abbott was only liable for the immediate "market disruption" after the price increase, or about three months' worth of lost sales. GSK had argued for damages through 2017.

Glaxo wasn't happy with the ruling, but isn't promising to appeal, either. "We are disappointed that the jury did not agree with our belief about the magnitude of the harm caused by Abbott's misconduct," spokesman Marc Meachem told the news service. "We understand and accept the jury's view."

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