March 24, 2011 / 6:33 PM / 8 years ago

Glaxo lawyer says Abbott used HIV drug as weapon

* Closing arguments underway in U.S. court

* Glaxo accuses Abbott of anti-competitive pricing

* Abbott accused of 400 percent price hike for HIV drug

By Dan Levine

OAKLAND, Calif., March 24 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories (ABT.N) improperly hiked the price of one drug to help it preserve sales growth of one of its other HIV blockbusters, an attorney for GlaxoSmithKline told a jury.

Closing arguments began on Thursday in a case in which Abbott is accused by GlaxoSmithKline of anti-competitive behavior regarding the drugs Norvir and Kaletra.

Norvir plays a key role in AIDS-fighting cocktails because it can boost the effectiveness of other drugs. Glaxo accuses Abbott of raising Norvir’s price by 400 percent in 2003, as part of an effort to harm competitors whose drugs were dependent on being used in combination with Norvir.

The case has been in trial for the past few weeks in an Oakland, California federal court. On Thursday, Glaxo attorney Brian Hennigan said that if more patients used Norvir, then fewer would use Kaletra, leading to the Norvir price hike.

“Norvir was just being used in the background as a weapon to protect Kaletra,” Hennigan said.

Hennigan asked the jury to award damages of $571.6 million, representing lost sales for Glaxo.

Annual sales of Kaletra hit $538 million in 2007, up from $382 million in 2003, despite side effects associated with the drug like diarrhea, Hennigan said.

Several retailers — including CVS Caremark (CVS.N), Walgreen WAG.N and Safeway SWY.N — had been in trial alongside Glaxo, but settled their claims mid-trial. [ID:nN23284111] Terms of that settlement were not disclosed.

Abbott’s closing argument was slated to begin later on Thursday.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Smithkline Beecham Corporation, doing business as GlaxoSmithKline, v. Abbott Laboratories, 07-5702. (Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Richard Chang)

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