Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Price of Life

Modern medicines play an important role in saving lives and also in improving quality of life but that vast majority of people do not have access to life saving medicines. There exist many reasons for this, the most important being high cost of medicines.

The medicine Sorafenab has been found to be useful in treating cancer of kidney and liver and is sold under its trade name ‘Nexavar’ manufactured by the Germany based multinational drug company Bayer costs  280,000 rupees per month for a person, whereas exactly the same drug when manufactured by the Hyderabad based Indian generic drug company Natco Pharma Limited, sold under its trade name ‘Sorafenat’ costs 8,800 rupees per month for a person.  A huge price difference of 97 per cent! It should be noted here that the Indian generic company is also making a good profit.

Bayer’s chief executive officer (CEO), Marijn Dekkers issued a statement that:
“We did not develop this medicine (Nexavar) for Indians,” adding, “We developed it for western patients who can afford it. ”

Dekkers further called the Indian regulator’s action as “essentially theft.”

The drug was discovered by Bayer and has been patented in most countries all over the world including India in the year 2008. So Bayer held the absolute power to dictate the price of the drug till 2020. But on March 9, 2013 the government of India’s patent office at Chennai (IPAB – Intellectual Property Appellate Board) issued Compulsory Licensing (CL) breaking the monopoly of Bayer. This meant that drug could be manufactured by another company even though Bayer had patents. It is this in particular that has annoyed Dekkers.

 Is it wrong to do this? An emphatic “No” according to the Lancet of February 2014 titled, “The political origins of health inequity: prospects for change”. It says “The Sorafenib case is not only a story of one drug and one country’s patent law, but also a flashpoint in a long-running global political contest over how certain types of health-related knowledge are produced, and who benefits. Even countries that traditionally embrace strong intellectual property rights at times use the threat of a compulsory licence, as the USA did in 2001 for drugs against anthrax”.

 In fiscal year 2012, Bayer had total sales of €39.7 billion.

From here 

No comments: