Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers explains: Nexavar cancer drug is for “western patients who can afford it.”

Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers called the Nexavar compulsory license “essentially theft.”

[UPDATE: The latest blog and transcript of Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers’ full quote on the Indian compulsory license of Nexavar at the December Financial Times event is now available.]

Today health advocates were shocked by the direct and appalling statements attributed to Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers. Published in Businessweek on January 21, 2014 and written by Bloomberg reporter Ketaki Gokhale, a news story about disputes over drug patents (link here) ended with an account of the India compulsory license on the cancer drug Nexavar, and practically exploded. Dekker is quoted as saying Bayer did not intend the cancer drug to be sold to cancer patients in India, adding “We developed it for western patients who can afford it.” From the Bloomberg/Businessweek story:

Under India’s patent laws, compulsory licenses can be awarded for some products still under patent if the original isn’t available locally at a reasonable price.

Natco Pharma Ltd. (NTCPH) applied directly to India’s patents office and was awarded the nation’s first compulsory license in March 2012 to make a copy of Bayer’s Nexavar cancer drug at a 97 percent discount to the original product. In March last year, Bayer lost its bid to stop Natco from making the generic drug and is appealing the decision at the Mumbai High Court.

Bayer Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers called the compulsory license “essentially theft.”

“We did not develop this medicine for Indians,” Dekkers said Dec. 3. “We developed it for western patients who can afford it.”

Apparently the December 3, 2013 quote is from an earlier largely overlooked event hosted by the FT. For more context, note that the Bayer price for Nexavar was $65 thousand USD, per year, in India, and that Bayer is currently arguing that the $65 thousand price is “reasonably affordable” to the India Supreme Court. Dekker’s comments will likely be quoted extensively in India, and I would not be surprised to see them quoted in a decision rejecting the Bayer appeal. It is worth noting that Dekkers, who holds both Dutch and U.S. citizenship, is a member of the Board of Directors of General Electric, another company that takes a very hard line on intellectual property issues. (See, for example: /node/1822).

The U.S. government has weighed in on the side of Bayer in the patent case, at the highest levels of the India and the US governments. For more on background on the Nexavar case, see: KEI’s February 17, 2013 Statement in Nexavar India compulsory licensing case. /node/1657

And: /search/node/nexavar

Video of the December 3, 2013 event where Marjin Dekker made the statement in question; Financial Times Live, “Buffering the Pharma Brand: Restoring Reputation, Rebuilding Trust-PANEL.”

There is also a January 23, 2014 MSF response to Bayer CEO statement that its medicines are developed only for western patients. (Link here).

Additional commentary

John LaMattina, the former president of R&D for Pfizer, wrote about the Dekkers/Bayer quote in a Forbes Blog on December 5, 2014. (Link here). If you read the comments, there is a response from Marijn Dekkers, as Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer AG. (Dekkers is both the CEO and the Chairman of the Board of Management).

Chittum, Ryan. “Bloomberg’s Viral Misquote.” Columbia Journalism Review. 29 January 2014.

Updated article in Bloomberg, “Merck to Bristol-Myers Face More Threats on India Patents,” by Ketaki Gokhale. 28 January 2014.

Grogan, Kevin. “Patients do not appreciate life-saving pharma: Bayer chief.” 04 December 2013.

Daily Mail. “‘We didn’t make this medicine for Indians… we made it for western patients who can afford it’: Pharmaceutical chief tries to stop India replicating its cancer treatment.” 24 January 2014.

Peck, Adam. “Pharmaceutical CEO: Cancer Drug is Only for Westerners Who Can Afford It.” ThinkProgress. 26 January 2014.

Allen, Michael. “Bayer CEO Says New Cancer Drug Wasn’t Made For Indians, Only Westerners.” 26 January 2014.

Dawn, April. “Big Pharma CEO: Cancer Drug is Only for Westerners Who Can Afford It.” 26 January 2014.

Agence France-Presse. “MSF slams Bayer for saying drugs for those who can pay.” 24 January 2014.