In 2005, the FDA granted approval for a promising new cancer-fighting drug called Nexavar. Bayer took it to market shortly thereafter, and it is currently an approved treatment for late-stage kidney and liver cancer.
That is, so long as you live in the developed world. In a recently published interview in Bloomberg Businessweek, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers said that his company’s drug isn’t for poor people.
“We did not develop this medicine for Indians…we developed it for
western patients who can afford it,” he said back in December. The quote
is quickly making its way across Indian news outlets.
The comment was in response to a decision by an Indian patent court
that granted a compulsory license to a local company to reproduce
Bayer’s drug. Under Indian patent laws, if a product is not available
locally at a reasonable cost, other companies may apply for licenses to
reproduce those products at a more affordable price. Nexavar costs an estimated $69,000 for a full year of treatment in India, 41 times the country’s annual per capita income.
In 2012, Indian pharmaceutical company Natco Pharma Ltd. applied for
just such a license, and it was granted. The company began reproducing
the drug at a 97 percent discount, offering it for just $177. Bayer has
been appealing the ruling ever since, and in December Dekkers told
Businessweek that he viewed the compulsory license as “essentially
theft” before dismissing poor Indian cancer patients.
Pharmaceutical companies have long been accused of ignoring the
plight of those who cannot afford their astronomical prices. In the
United States, where insurance companies often pick up most of the tab,
consumers are often shielded from the true cost of drugs they are
prescribed (Nexavar, for example, costs as much as $96,000 in the United
States, but Bayer ensures that eligible US patients only see a $100 copay).
Dekkers’ quote brings into sharp relief the industry’s general
ambivalence towards the developing world. A 2012 report from Doctors
Without Borders found
that most pharmaceutical companies devote only a small fraction of
their operating budgets to fighting diseases that disproportionally
affect — and kill — millions of the world’s poorest people.
taken from here