CBIS and ICCR Urge Abbott Labs to Keep HIV/AIDS Drug on the Shelf in Thailand
The investors are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a corporate accountability organization whose combined membership assets exceed $110 billion. In a joint statement, CBIS and the other faith-based investors said:
“In an effort to increase access to affordable medicines, the government of Thailand issued a compulsory license for non-commercial use within its public health system, as provided for by World Trade Organization rules, for the HIV medicine by Abbott Labs called Kaletra (also marketed as Aluvia). A combination of drugs lopinavir and ritonovir, Kaletra is crucial for patients who have developed drug resistance or have adverse side effects from other AIDS medicines. The newest formulation does not need to be refrigerated or taken with food -- a major improvement for many living in rural areas.
In response to the Thai government action, Abbott has not only withdrawn Kaletra, but also new drug applications for: pain (Brufen); antibiotics (Abbotic); blood clots (Clivarine); arthritis (Humira); high-blood pressure (Tarka); and kidney disease (Zemplar).
To our knowledge, no pharmaceutical company has before withdrawn AIDS drugs in response to a pricing or licensing dispute. By keeping life-saving medicines like Kaletra off the shelves in Thailand, Abbott Labs is threatening the health of Thais who need access to these drugs for survival.
As institutional investors, we are disappointed that Abbott could not come to an agreement with the Government of Thailand, which would ensure access to Abbott products at a cost Thais living with HIV could afford. Kaletra is a breakthrough drug that should not be denied to AIDS patients. We believe that Abbott’s actions are creating a precedent for pharmaceutical industry behavior which we can not endorse.
We are concerned that Abbott’s actions will further open the company to severe criticism and have the potential to damage its reputation and impact the bottom-line. Several well known and highly regarded public health organizations have condemned this action and influential media organizations have taken a negative view of Abbott’s actions. We believe the company is overlooking risks that can have a serious effect on brand, its relationships with patients, and ultimately, shareholder value.
Abbott has stated publicly that ‘as a leading provider of innovative health care products, it has a unique responsibility and opportunity to ensure people have access to them – whether they are among the poor and underprivileged.’ The faith-based investors are urging Abbott to reverse its decision to pull its medicines from Thailand and make medicines accessible to the poor in Thailand and other developing countries
Investment research into pharmaceutical AIDS policies has often highlighted the risks of failing to provide medicines to people in need. ICCR’s 2006 report, ’Benchmarking AIDS: Evaluating Pharmaceutical Company Responses to the Public Health Crisis in Emerging Markets,’ noted ‘there is an urgent clinical need for a number of products Abbott could provide’ including pediatric AIDS drugs, fixed dose combinations and low-cost generic versions of Kaletra. ICCR called on Abbott to ensure that its new, heat-stable version of Kaletra be registered, available and affordable in adult and pediatric formulations. ICCR continues to urge Abbott to bring its policies in line with these recommendations.”
The joint statement comes from the following faith-based shareholders: Adrian Dominican Sisters; Basilian Fathers of Toronto; Catholic Health East; Christian Brothers Investment Services; Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL; The Ethical Funds Company; General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, United Methodist Church; Maryknoll Sisters; Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment; Sisters of Charity, BVM; Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth; Sisters of Mercy, Regional Community of Detroit; Sisters of St Francis of Philadelphia; Sisters of the Precious Blood, Trinity Health.
ABOUT THE GROUPS
Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc., manages more than $4 billion, combining faith and finance in the responsible stewardship of Catholic financial assets. CBIS' combination of premier institutional asset managers, diversified product offerings, and careful risk-control strategies constitutes a unique investment approach for Catholic institutions and their fiduciaries. CBIS strives to integrate faith-based values into the investment process through a disciplined approach to socially responsible investing that includes principled purchasing (stock screens), active ownership strategies (proxy voting, dialogues, and shareholder resolutions) and community investment. Visit CBIS on the Web at http://www.cbisonline.com.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has been a leader of the corporate social responsibility movement for 35 years. ICCR's membership is an association of 275 faith-based institutional investors with a combined portfolio value estimated to be $110 billion. ICCR and its members press companies to be socially and environmentally responsible. Each year ICCR-member religious institutional investors sponsor over 200 shareholder resolutions on major social and environmental issues. More information about ICCR is available at http://www.iccr.org.