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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

Drug Firm Threatens Legal Action


Toronto Globe and Mail (06/25/92), P. B12

The manufacturer of AZT, Burroughs Wellcome, is threatening to sue Canadian hospitals and pharmacists who distribute a generic copy of its AIDS treatment. Although the generic form has been approved by Ottawa, the legal threat has discouraged potential distributors form purchasing it. Montreal-based Burroughs Wellcome sent letters to more than 7,002 Canadian pharmacists and seven large hospitals cautioning them against dispensing a generic version of AZT, because they would be held liable for violating Burroughs Wellcome's exclusive distribution rights. Burroughs Wellcome President Mark Weedon said the threat of legal action was needed to protect the company's patent rights. The generic AZT is made by Apotex, Inc., which was granted Canadian federal government approval to manufacture the drug last month. Apotex is one of the first companies to manufacture the generic form of AZT, which is being offered at about 30 percent less than the list price of AZT. Elie Betitio, an Apotex spokesman, said sales have been halted by the Burroughs Wellcome letter. But Apotex said in order to get hospitals and pharmacists to buy the generic version, it will pay the cost of any legal action initiated by Burroughs Wellcome.


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