AbbVie decides against Supreme Court appeal for ruling that extended rights to gays

Without explaining why, AbbVie ($ABBV) has decided not to appeal a court ruling that extended rights to gay jurors which materialized out of litigation it has been waging with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) over the pricing of an HIV med. But it is seldom a good idea for a pharma company to antagonize its patient base. And gay men make up a significant number of the patients on HIV drugs sold by the drugmaker.

AbbVie spokesman Dirk Van Eeden told Reuters on Tuesday the company decided not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a January ruling from the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That ruling extended the right for gays not to be struck from a jury pool because of their sexual orientation, in the same way that people can't be excluded on the basis of race.

The question grew out of a case in which GlaxoSmithKline sued Abbott Laboratories ($ABT), which owned the drug before AbbVie was spun off last year. GSK accused AbbVie of unreasonably jacking up the price of Norvir, one of the drugs commonly paired with Glaxo's Lexiva in an HIV-fighting cocktail. Abbott was selling its own combination pill, Kaletra, and the 400% price hike helped steer patients away from the Norvir-plus-Lexiva combo, GSK claimed.

HIV drug prices are a hot-button issue in the gay community, and during the 2011 trial, lawyers for Abbott asked that a gay man be struck as a possible juror. GSK called the move discriminatory but a judge allowed it.

The jury decided that while Abbott had violated its licensing deal with Glaxo, the pricing move didn't violate competition laws. It awarded Glaxo $3.5 million, far short of the $571 million in damages GSK was asking. GSK appealed and the appeals court said that in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act--U.S. v. Windsor--there should be a new trial.

- here's the Reuters story