Abbott and the Aids Crisis (a)
10 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2009
In 1999, the 20-year-old AIDS crisis had ravaged many developing countries and, in particular, on the continent of Africa. Of the estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide in 1998, almost two-thirds (22 million) were in sub-Saharan Africa, considered the “global epicenter” of the disease. Already 12 million had died, and life expectancy in the region plummeted from 62 years to 47. Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories had responded at the start of the AIDS outbreak by developing the HIV diagnostic test kit and then, later in the crisis, developed some of the state-of-the-art HIV/AIDS drugs. Abbott executives, led by new CEO Miles White, wanted to address the crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, but in a specific, efficient, and effective way. This case details the evolution of the AIDS crisis, Abbott Laboratories' HIV/AIDS drug production, and the company's efforts—in 1999—to find other ways to battle HIV/AIDS globally.
ABBOTT AND THE AIDS CRISIS (A)
In January 1999, Miles White became the new CEO of Abbott Laboratories, and in June, was made chairman of the board. White had plans to transform Abbott into a major player on the international stage, leveraging its core competencies in pharmaceutical development to focus on its primary area of expertise and commitment: HIV/AIDS. Over the next decade, White would increase the global presence of Abbott through both internal innovation and intelligent acquisitions. And he would transform the company's foundation, Abbott Fund, into a significant global contributor in the fight against AIDS in the developing world.
During this same period, a number of factors had put Abbott at a crossroads in the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic. As Rick Moser, who worked in Abbott's Corporate Public Affairs Department at the time, recalled, there was a growing sense of awareness of how large the AIDS crisis was becoming in developing countries. Abbott, which had offered the first HIV diagnostic test in the 1980s and had developed one of the first protease inhibitors, Norvir, was taking notice, as were other businesses and organizations. Bristol-Myers Squibb had set an important example earlier in 1999 with its Secure the Future program, “a $ 100 million commitment to advance HIV/AIDS research and community outreach programs in five southern African countries: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland.” This was the first time a pharmaceutical company had launched an aggressive program to combat the pandemic in the developing world. And Newsweek was about to publish a big article on the AIDS crisis and its horrific impact on children in the developing world—“it exploded the issue, gave it broad prominence.”
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Keywords: ethics, ethical issues, stakeholder management, corporate social responsibility, healthcare, nonprofit initiatives, leadership, innovation, diversity
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