On January 21st, 2014 reporter Ketaki Gokhale of Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a shocking statement by Bayer Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers as part of their story on drug patents and prices. With respect to the Nexavar drug which we’ve covered extensively on this blog, he was quoted as saying:
“We did not develop this medicine for Indians,” “We developed it for western patients who can afford it.”
Nexavar of course was the kidney cancer drug for which the IPAB upheld India’s first Compulsory License with a heavy emphasis on public interest. Ironically enough, in those proceedings Bayer had argued that its drug had been made available to the public at a reasonably affordable price. Bayer’s drug was priced at Rs 2,80,000 a month. Natco’s generic drug is priced at Rs 8,800 a month. Bayer is currently appealing the decision before the High Court in Mumbai. No doubt, the above quoted statement will be withdrawn or ‘clarified’ as this news spreads for it would be a terrible statement to have presented before the court proceedings.
The same article also says that Bayer’s CEO apparently referred to the compulsory license as “essentially theft“. I’m no expert in the matter and in fact have little knowledge at all about the Contempt of Courts Act, but I would be very interested in knowing whether it would apply in a situation where the court’s decision is equated to committing theft. (Presuming IPAB comes under its scope in the first place?). I say this because it’s not just a passing mention. The US Government has heavily favoured Bayer’s position here at the highest levels and the Indian Government has come under lots of pressure for its courts allegedly ‘discriminating against foreign companies’ – implying either that there is a policy of discrimination followed by the judiciary, or that the judiciary is not an independent body. Or both. It certainly seems a bit much for this type of discussion to become so normalized that the court’s decision can now be called an illegal activity.
According to KEI, “Apparently the December 3, 2013 quote is from an earlier largely overlooked event hosted by the FT”. I’m not sure how these statements went overlooked for so long but assuming they are true, I’m very glad that these brazen remarks have come to light.