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AIDS Treatment News
Abbott: Major Protest over Lack of Access
John S. James
May 19, 1995
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 trials.) 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.

Background 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 pressure.

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.

Comment 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 Many of the phone and fax numbers are unpublished, making the communications difficult to ignore, and assuring that top officials will become aware of the issue.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.