Developed cancer drug for western patients not 'for Indians': Bayer's CEO
New Delhi: Global medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres slammed on Friday a statement by Bayer's chief executive that the giant German firm only developed its cancer drug Nexavar for people who could afford the medicine, not "for Indians".
India's controller general of patents angered Bayer in March 2012 when he authorized a local drugmaker to produce a generic copy of Nexavar, saying the German company charged a price that was too costly for most Indians.
"We did not develop this medicine (Nexavar) for Indians," Marijn Dekkers said at a little reported pharmaceutical forum last month, according to the January 21st edition of Businessweek.
"We developed it for western patients who can afford it," Dekkers said, and called the Indian regulator's action "essentially theft".
Bayer said the statements attributed to Dekkers were accurate and forwarded written comments made later by the German chief executive seeking to explain his remarks.
Dekkers said the comment had been a "quick response" at the industry forum to the Nexavar issue and added Bayer wants "all people to share the fruits of medical progress regardless of their origins or income".
But Dekkers added in the written comments he had been "particularly frustrated" by the Indian regulator's decision, which marked the first time a so-called compulsory licence of a patented drug had been awarded in India.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Friday that the Bayer chief's remarks summed up "everything that is wrong" with the multinational pharmaceutical industry.
"Bayer is effectively admitting the drugs they develop are deliberately going to be rationed to the wealthiest patients," Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MSF's Access Campaign, said.
The medical charity said big pharmaceutical companies believe "research and development (R&D) can only be rewarded by a patent and through high prices to recoup the R&D costs.
"Those who can't afford to pay are basically cut out of the system," Balasegaram said.
The Indian government gave local pharmaceutical house Natco Pharma a licence to produce a copy of Nexavar, used to treat liver and kidney cancer, at a 97% discount to the original selling price of the Bayer product in India.
Global drugmakers say India's powerhouse generics industry and strict patent filtering reduce commercial incentives to produce cutting-edge medicines.