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
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2014 @ 9:20am

    Re: Why does he care then?

    They give a RA precisely because once companies begin manufacture of a generic version in, say, India, that generic version will almost instantaneously become a prime candidate for export worldwide.

    It is disappointing to see the constant vilification of long standing pharmaceutical companies as somehow the devil incarnate. There is nothing wrong with earning a profit. Nor is there anything wrong with differential pricing that depends upon market conditions in individual countries. For all those who rail "But people will die", it cannot be dismissed that the newer formulations are almost always not the only ones available in-country to treat a specific medical condition. Additionally, the entry into many foreign markets are conditioned upon the exporter creating domestic financial opportunities for a country's citizens. The construction of manufacturing facilities for any number of products is not at all an unusual mandate. The same can be said requiring the infusion of money to support domestic R&D. Companies is many, many industries do this all the time just to try and gain a foothold.

    The comment by Bayer's rep was not particularly wise, but there is a measure of truth that Bayer does not devote significant resources over the course of many years to create a product, only to turn over all relevant information about that product to a third party so that the third party will immediately be established as a coat-tail-riding competitor having expended virtually no company resources other than modify its manufacturing facilities and processes, as necessary, to begin cranking out the product.

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