Roche vs Cipla: Personal Intimidation by Roche Representative

Tis’ certainly the season of “intimidation” for SpicyIP. My aunt in Kerala received a call from someone who claimed to be a Roche representative, but never gave his name. He fretted and fumed that my writings on the blog were “anti Roche” and warned her, in no uncertain terms, that if I continued with such writings, I would pay for it dearly! And that, as a responsible aunt, she ought to warn me against my errant ways. Naturally, I was at the receiving end of an emotional outburst from her.

Readers may recollect our earlier post, where I had queried an uncle of mine (a cancer specialist at RCC, Trivandrum and married to the “aunt” above) on the price of “Tarceva”. In that post, I noted:

“In several earlier posts, we pointed out inconsistencies in Roche’s argument on the Tarceva price. While they claimed in court (before Bhat J) as well as in the press that the tablet costs only Rs 3200, the packaging in the market (which Cipla produced in court) speaks otherwise i.e. Rs 4800 per tablet (which coverts to about Rs 1.4 lakh per month for a patient). Justice Bhat naturally preferred the hard evidence produced by Cipla (i.e. the packaging) to the word of Roche.

Since I’ve been perplexed about this pricing issue, I spoke with an uncle of mine, a cancer specialist at the RCC (Regional Cancer Center), Trivandrum. He’s treated several patients with Tarceva in the past. He informs me that although the open market price for Tarceva is Rs 4800 per tablet, RCC was able to negotiate a lower price of Rs 3200 from Roche. In other words, a powerful institution such as the RCC could strike a good bargain with Roche. But he cautions, this price is strictly for RCC patients only and Roche has left strict instructions to ensure that this cannot be traded in the open market (sort of the way military canteen goods in India are subjected to arbitrage).”

I just can’t fathom how anyone could stoop to such a level, sneakily procure personal details (telephone numbers etc-so much for privacy in this country!) and threaten family members.

More importantly, I’m not entirely sure what part of the above statement peeved this alleged representative of Roche. Or whether his angst was against previous posts that pointed to critical flaws in Roche’s legal strategy. Anyway, if he thinks that his highly reprehensible act of issuing threats to family members is going to shut us up and derail our efforts to further “transparency”, he is sadly mistaken.

Shamnad Basheer

Shamnad Basheer

Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer founded SpicyIP in 2005. He's also the Founder of IDIA, a project to train underprivileged students for admissions to the leading law schools. He served for two years as an expert on the IP global advisory council (GAC) of the World Economic Forum (WEF). In 2015, he received the Infosys Prize in Humanities in 2015 for his work on legal education and on democratising the discourse around intellectual property law and policy. The jury was headed by Nobel laureate, Prof. Amartya Sen. Professional History: After graduating from the NLS, Bangalore Prof. Basheer joined Anand and Anand, one of India’s leading IP firms. He went on to head their telecommunication and technology practice and was rated by the IFLR as a leading technology lawyer. He left for the University of Oxford to pursue post-graduate studies, completing the BCL, MPhil and DPhil as a Wellcome Trust scholar. His first academic appointment was at the George Washington University Law School, where he served as the Frank H Marks Visiting Associate Professor of IP Law. He then relocated to India in 2008 to take up the MHRD Chaired Professorship in IP Law at WB NUJS, a leading Indian law school. Later, he was the Honorary Research Chair of IP Law at Nirma University and also a visiting professor of law at the National Law School (NLS), Bangalore. Prof. Basheer has published widely and his articles have won awards, including those instituted by ATRIP, the Stanford Technology Law Review and CREATe. He was consulted widely by the government, industry, international organisations and civil society on a variety of IP issues. He also served on several government committees.

One comment.

  1. AvatarShamnad Basheer

    A colleague of mine (who is a mentor of sorts and someone for whom I have the deepest respect) writes:

    “Dear Shamnad:

    Please tell your aunt that she failed you because she did not get the persons name and professional affiliation.

    Anyhow I am not sure why Roche thinks you have been anti-Roche. The problem with Tarceva is not the price, it is that it doesn’t work very well unfortunately so that it is probably not worth the money.

    The only thing is that perhaps using it will lead to something better. It may, however, be better than Iressa, but it turns out that nothing really works for lung cancer. That is why governments love the disease. It kills rapidly and cheaply.”


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