AIDS TREATMENT NEWS Issue #223, May 19, 1995
Hundreds of people across the U.S. are calling and faxing the
executives and directors of Abbott Laboratories, of Abbott
Park, Illinois, over the company's refusal to provide any
compassionate access to ABT-538, Abbott's experimental
protease inhibitor. The first phase of the protest was
scheduled from May 16 through May 22.
Representatives of some of the largest U.S. AIDS
organizations have called for this protest. They want Abbott
to set up a program by this summer so that persons with CD4
(T-helper) count under 50, who have failed approved
treatments and have no other options, can receive ABT-538.
(Those with CD4 under 50 are excluded from most clinical
Calls and faxes are going to 20 of Abbott's top executives
(the chairman, president, several vice presidents, and
presidents of subsidiaries), officials in the protease
program, and members of the board of directors who are in
educational or medical fields.
You can obtain a four-page packet with background
information, a sample letter to fax Abbott, and the phone and
fax numbers of the Abbott officials, by leaving a message
with your fax number or address on the voicemail of ACT
UP/Golden Gate, 415/252-9200.
ABT-538, now in clinical trials, is one of the three protease
inhibitors furthest advanced in human testing. The makers of
the other two, Hoffmann-La Roche, and Merck & Co., were
reluctant to provide any form of expanded access to their
drugs, but both agreed to limited programs after public
The protest was called by the Protease Working Group, which
consists of a representative from twelve major AIDS
organizations, including Gay Men's Health Crisis, San
Francisco AIDS Foundation, ACT UP/New York Treatment and Data
Committee, and ACT UP/Golden Gate.
This protest is powerful because it informs the whole chain
of command, from the officials directly concerned all the way
up to the top of the company. Many of the phone and fax
numbers are unpublished, making the communications difficult
to ignore, and assuring that top officials will become aware
of the issue. This matters because -- to a much greater
extent than generally realized -- bureaucrats at every level
of an organization work hard to keep certain information away
from those above them, to contain problems at their level so
that higher-ups do not get involved. But in this case,
Abbott's top management not only will hear about the problem
but also will have reason to pay attention, to avoid possible
embarrassment in front of their colleagues and the public.