Friday, January 31, 2014

Bayer CEO Actually Said This: Cancer Drug Is For Rich Westerners, NOT Poor Indians

This controversy out of Bayer Pharmaceuticals has been pretty much ignored by the American media. You won't find it on CNN or any of the network channels. I don't know whether its because Bayer is a huge advertiser or whether they think the American people had their fill of "affluenza" stories this week on the heels of Tim Perkins' idiotic statement comparing rich people troubles to the Holocaust. (It goes without saying that its not on Fox either, but they aren't "news").

But its a pretty big deal...

Nexavar is a kidney and liver cancer-fighting drug that was developed by Bayer and approved for use over 9 years ago. Despite it being almost a decade, the price has not come down much for the drug. A one-year drug treatment costs $69,000 at minimum.

You read that right. To get a one year supply of pills it will cost you 69K US dollars.

India has a law that says they will allow other companies to manufacture a generic version of any life-saving drug IF that drug is massively overpriced.

In 2012, an Indian patent court ruled that, yeah, $69,000 dollars is quite a freaking lot to ask a dying person to pay for a damn drug treatment. (At least if your last name isn't "Koch".) As The Young Turks pointed out, 69K is 41 times the country's annual per capita income.

So India allowed a generic version to be made by another company at a cost of $177 a year-- a trite more reasonable. That's 99.7% less than the 69K.

Bayer's CEO, Marijn Dekkers, was outraged by the ruling. In an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek a few days ago he didn't even try to hide his contempt:

"We did not develop this medicine for Indians... we developed it for Western patients who can afford it!"

He said that.

Wow. He was able to not only piss on dying poor people but be racist while doing it.

Dekkers went on to say that the ruling was "essentially theft". (Said the man who charges 69k for a drug that can be made 99 times cheaper.)

I get the argument that drug companies have a reasonable expectation of profit. Yes, I also get that research and development can be expensive and they want to recoup some of that. But come on... you've charged $69,000 per person for life-saving treatment for almost a decade. I think you've recouped your expenses. There is no justification for charging that much to someone.

I remember the outrage I felt when affluenza was used as a murder defense last year, but I'm starting to think its a real affliction for people so ungodly rich they lose touch with humanity. No rational, healthy person would say they developed a life-saving drug for only rich people. Or compare complaints about obscene income inequality with being attacked by Nazis. Or play dress-up as a wage employee to mock working families.

At least this guy is being honest. But you'll understand that the next time I get a headache, I'll be passing over the Bayer aspirin.

UPDATE: Gooserock asked if government funds were used to foot the bill of development. I don't know the specifics of this drug, but I can tell you that it is often the case. The federal government spent $484 million to develop the cancer drug Taxol. Bristol-Myers reaped massive profits by selling 9 billion dollars worth. The National Institute of Health only received a 35 million royalty.

1 comment :

  1. For the record, Businessweek, the original source of the quote, has updated it slightly as a correction:

    “Is this going to have a big effect on our business model?” Dekkers said Dec. 3 at a conference in London. “No, because we did not develop this product for the Indian market, let’s be honest. We developed this product for Western patients who can afford this product, quite honestly. It is an expensive product, being an oncology product.”

    Not that that's any better in terms of sentiment, but the likes of him probably thinks it is.