May 1, 2011

May 1, 2011
Welcome to May

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Sunday and also the first day of May. I hope you are having a safe and great weekend so far.

This is the only day I am not packed with events, meetings and calls for the next couple of weeks. So besides being interviewed for a couple of hours for a documentary, I am going to enjoy some down time. I will spend some time with my three dogs and maybe even do some retail therapy.

We did get some relatively good news in this dark time for people with HIV and AIDS. Abbott Laboratories this morning told its shareholders the company has reduced the price of its popular AIDS drug Kaletra for some customers. The move comes amid reductions in government spending on programs for low income Americans with HIV, which has made it hard for patients to afford medicine.

Across the country, cash strapped states including Illinois have reduced spending and curtailed eligibility for people enrolled in AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, state run programs that have seen an influx of applicants as lawmakers deal with the struggling economy.

Illinois, for example, has reduced the number of medications available to patients and has capped how much can be spent on the drugs through a state assistance program. Officials also have added layers to the process of how to sign up for and stay enrolled in its AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

Other states have put many HIV and AIDS patients on waiting lists, making eligibility harder or reducing drug options.

For its part, Abbott today said it reduced the price most states will pay for Kaletra by 8 percent to $5,037 per year. Kaletra is a protease inhibitor, a key ingredient in the so called cocktails of medicines patients with HIV take to keep the virus in check.

"We still understand there is pressure on state budgets," Abbott chairman and chief executive officer Miles White told a representative of an advocacy group that spoke about the struggles of AIDS patients to afford their medications.

A representative from Los Angeles based AIDS Healthcare Foundation questioned the timing of Abbott's price reduction, coming in the week leading up to the shareholders meeting.

Abbott's shareholders meeting is one of the best attended annual corporate meetings in the Chicago area, drawing more than 1,000 shareholders Friday to the company's sprawling Abbott Park headquarters just east Tri-State Tollway about 35 miles north of Chicago.

Abbott executives, however, said the company has been discussing its Kaletra pricing with administrators of the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs for months. More than 7,700 patients across the country are on waiting lists to get into the program, AIDS Healthcare Foundation said, citing state and federal official records.

White said Abbott has not raised the price of Kaletra since 2007 while other companies have increased prices on their AIDS drugs 5 to 6 percent annually in some cases. We have not done that.

The meeting was an otherwise laid back affair. Few shareholders voiced concerns, despite Abbott having had a year including nearly 2,000 job cuts after several failed efforts to win U.S. approval for certain prescription drugs.

During the annual meeting, White announced that 78 percent of shareholders voted to support the company's executive pay plan.

A new US law requires public companies to allow shareholders to vote on executive pay plans. Though the votes are advisory, the law's supporters say such votes are important in the wake of corporate and financial scandals. Known as say on pay proposals, they have been pushed by shareholders and workers for years without much corporate support.

Abbott Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Miles White's total compensation package dipped slightly last year to $25.6 million from $26.2 million in 2009. His total includes salary, stock awards and a bonus.

Now if we can find somehow to save Floridians with HIV and AIDS this month.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab