The CEO of Bayer, Marjin Dekkers, says that his company’s drug isn’t for poor people, confirming allegations that many of us have made against big pharma and the American
healthcare system illness management system.
The drug in question is Nexavar, an FDA approved treatment for late stage kidney and liver cancer.
Bloomberg Businessweek interviewed Dekker after officials in India issued a compulsory license to Natco Pharma Ltd, making them able to make an affordable version of Nexavar in India.
“We did not develop this medicine for Indians…we developed it for western patients who can afford it,” said Dekkers in the December interview. He says that this is “essentially theft.”
No, Mr. Dekkers: What your company is doing is essentially theft; it’s highway robbery.
A full year of Nexavar costs $69,000; that’s 41 times more than India’s annual per capita income. To compare, if the drug was that costly in the United States, it would cost an astounding $1.6 million a year.
Under India’s patent laws, if a product is not available at an affordable price, local companies may apply for a compulsory license to reproduce these products at a lower price.
Since Natco was granted the compulsory license, they’ve managed to make the drug available at a 97% discount.
It now costs only $177 instead of $69,000.
Bayer is appealing the ruling, claiming they need the revenue to fund research for new pharmaceutical innovations; yet they won’t provide the investment costs that went into the research and development of Nexavar—some of which was offset by U.S. government subsidiaries.
You would think that if the cost of Bayer’s investment truly validated what appears to be only greed of epic proportions, Bayer would be more transparent and publicize the costs; if only to prove a point as to why this pricey pill should remain so pricey.
But, they don’t.
Dekker’s callous comments about the poor of India should send a chill down your spine, because not only do they reflect a blatant disregard for the poor of India, but they also are dismissive of the poor here in the Western world who can’t afford the costly drug.
While there may be some “Westerners who can afford it,” there are millions who can’t.
For example, in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service can’t offer Nexavar because it costs close to £3,000 GBP–that’s $5, 187 USD–a month. There is no generic equivalent.
Here in the United States, Nexavar costs about $96,000 for a full year of treatment. Insurance picks up the majority of the tab, so Bayer has ever so kindly ensured that insured patients have only a $100 monthly co-pay. How thoughtful.
Unfortunately, there were some 55 million uninsured prior to Obamacare. Projections estimate there will still be at least—at the very minimum—30 million or more uninsured by the end of Obama’s second term.
Like the United Kingdom, the United States has no generic version available—and there won’t be, as long as Bayer continues to hold an exclusive patent to Nexavar.
Bayer does have a patient assistance program in the United States. Your income must be not at the poverty level, but 200% under the poverty level to qualify, which leaves out the majority of the working poor.
A similar patient assistance program was developed in India in 2008; it obviously provided little to no assistance because despite its advent, only 2% of the patient population was able to obtain Nexavar.
If it can be reproduced so cheaply in India—while Natco is still pulling what is reported to be a 30% profit margin and Bayer is still being a paid a mandatory 6% royalties–why then, can it not be done here?
Short answer: Big pharma doesn’t care about poor people.
They exist not for the benefit of humanity, but for those that can afford to pay, funding their excessive profits.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
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