New Cancer Drug ‘Only For Rich People’, Says Drug Company CEO

in Overall Health by

by Kerry-anne

The CEO of pharmaceutical giant Bayer has caused outrage across the world by stating that a newly developed cancer drug is only intended for supply to rich countries.

According to this report from the Economic Times:

Global medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres slammed on Friday a statement by Bayer’s chief executive that the giant German firm only developed its cancer drug Nexavar for people who could afford the medicine, not “for Indians”.

India’s controller general of patents angered Bayer in March 2012 when he authorized a local drugmaker to produce a generic copy of Nexavar, saying the German company charged a price that was too costly for most Indians.

“We did not develop this medicine (Nexavar) for Indians,” Marijn Dekkers said at a little reported pharmaceutical forum last month, according to the January 21st edition of Businessweek.

“We developed it for western patients who can afford it,” Dekkers said, and called the Indian regulator’s action “essentially theft”.

Bayer said the statements attributed to Dekkers were accurate and forwarded written comments made later by the German chief executive seeking to explain his remarks.

“Bayer is effectively admitting the drugs they develop are deliberately going to be rationed to the wealthiest patients,” Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MSF’s Access Campaign, said.

Balasegaram also spoke to the Times Of India, stating:

“Diseases that don’t promise a profit are neglected, and patients who can’t afford to pay are cut out of the picture. Drug companies claim to care about global health needs, but their track record says otherwise. It doesn’t have to be this way. Medical innovation can be incentivised differently, and research paid for in ways that deliver drugs but without high prices that exclude millions of people from access. Instead of being part of the problem, drug companies should work to be part of the solution and change the dire state of medical research and development today,”

Prof Mickey Davis, professor of law at Cleveland State University told Knowledge Ecology International, a non-profit NGO that keeps track of IP issues that what Bayer was saying was that they calculated that Western purchases would more than pay for R&D and that they would profit from those sales alone.

“Thus they lose nothing by these Indian sales. They anticipated no revenue from India. There can be no theft if there is no loss. There can however be a crime by Bayer, depriving people of health and drugs through misrepresentation,”

This case will do nothing to alleviate concerns around the world the development of and access to live saving drugs are not best managed by a private pharmaceuticals industry that places profit over the public health.

Kerry-anne Mendoza is a writer, blogger and activist. She is the author of the Scriptonite Daily blog which explores matters of current affairs, politics, economics and ideas. She is also a contributor to New Internationalist, openDemocracy, Trebuchet Magazine, the Occupy News Network and others. She is based in the UK, and left her career as a Management Consultant having held senior positions in banking, local government and the NHS to be part of the Occupy Movement. She has since worked as a writer and campaigner for social, economic and environmental justice.

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