Bayer's CEO: We Develop Drugs For Rich Westerners, Not Poor Indians

from the refreshingly-honest dept

We've covered the continuing efforts of emerging economies to provide key medicines for their populations at affordable prices. To do that, they often invoke their right to use compulsory licensing to bring down costs. For understandable reasons, the big pharma companies aren't happy with that approach, but usually dress it up as a concern about the supposed threat to "innovation" that it represents -- their claim being high prices are needed to fund expensive research. But as Techdirt has noted, pharma's estimates of expenditure here tend to be hugely inflated, which rather undercuts that argument.

One of the companies that has been affected by compulsory licensing moves in India is Bayer. Here's what its CEO said on the subject according to a report in Bloomberg Businessweek:

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."
That's a refreshingly honest admission that rather than wanting to save lives around the world, what Bayer is interested in is maximizing its profits by selling expensive drugs to "western patients who can afford it," and that those who can't pay can just, well, drop dead -- which, of course, is precisely what many of them will do without Bayer's drugs.

Some might say that's a perfectly reasonable position -- after all, Bayer and the other pharmaceutical companies are for-profit concerns. But they weren't always so dismissive of humanitarian concerns. Here's what George Merck, who became president of his father's eponymous chemical manufacturing company in 1929, said on the subject, as quoted on the Today in Science History site:

We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.
Bayer's CEO obviously disagrees.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: drugs, india, marijn dekkers, pharmaceuticals, poor, rich
Companies: bayer, merck


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  1. identicon
    Anon Biotech CEO, 5 Jan 2015 @ 11:03am

    This Article is Idiotic

    Why should pharmaceutical companies pick up the tab for the world's health problems simply because they are in the business of making drugs? Do we expect wheat farmers to set lower prices because there are starving people in the world? The profit margin for pharmaceuticals has to be HIGH people because it takes decades and hundreds of scientists to develop a drug, get it through clinical trials, and even after all that it usually doesn't make it to the marketplace. It's a very thankless process and can feel very futile so incentive is created on the other end. Yes, drugs are a business. People aren't solely in it for the money but when you have shareholders to answer to (your investors) you cannot strike profitably unfavorable deals because then you lose investors, you lose money, you have to shrink your company, fire scientists and the promise of any cure anywhere down the line is gone. The answer to this dilemma is subsidies. The problem with allowing India to steal technology is that they will manufacture the drug themselves, sell it for next to nothing and big pharma cannot 1) recoup its initial investments in the drug and 2) create new drugs. So there you have--it's simple economics.

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