Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers said recently in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek that Bayer isn’t in the business of making affordable cancer treatments for third world countries such as India. Speaking specifically of the drug, Nexavar, Dekkers said, “We did not develop this medicine for Indians.” He finished, “We developed it for western patients who can afford it.”
India’s patent laws stipulate that a local company can be awarded a patent to make a cheaper version of a drug if an affordable version by the original manufacturer is not readily available.
Such is the case with Nexavar, a cancer drug used to treat late-stage kidney and liver cancer in the U.S. at a cost of up to $96,000 a patient in the U.S., or $69,000 for patients in India. Natco Pharma Ltd. (NTCPH) is the company who filed for a patent in India, and was given the right to make the drug in 2012. Natco Pharma Ltd. released the drug for sale at a cost of 97% less than what Bayer charged, a mere $177. Bayer lost in an attempt to block the patent being given to someone else in 2013, and has appealed to the Mumbai High Court.
Dekkers told reporters that the decision to give away the patent to another manufacturer so that poor people can potentially afford it is “essentially theft” as he brushed off the real issue at hand, which is creating essential life-saving cancer treatments to people.
The attitude that third world life is somehow less worthy of saving has long been decried in the pharmaceutical industry. Doctors Without Borders noted in a report in 2012 that big pharmaceutical companies won’t develop treatments for illnesses in third world countries because the profit margins, while they exist, are not big enough.
h/t: Think Progress