[Ip-health] Businessweek: Life-Saving Medicine, High Costs, and the Intractable Patent Puzzle

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Wed Mar 5 09:31:41 PST 2014


Much of the focus of the story is on Bayer's Nexavar, and Nina Mahmud's
family efforts to get access for her Egyptian father-in law.

* A representative of Bayer (BAY:GR) was set to speak at a hearing of the
U.S. International Trade Commission. Mahmud was going to ask her how the
pharmaceutical giant could let her father-in-law, a shopkeeper in Egypt
suffering from liver cancer, bankrupt himself to pay for a life-saving
treatment. The drug, Nexavar, costs him about $115 a day in Egypt, she
said, while his monthly salary is less than $300.

*  Even so, his remarks continue to rankle Mahmud. "It reminds me of a
quote a professor once asked me," Mahmud says. "If you saw someone
drowning, is it illegal to stand there and watch them? The answer is no.
But it's immoral. It's disgusting."

* Mahmud said she and her husband, both Egyptian by birth, have watched
helplessly as her husband's father, Fathi Aboseada, has drained his life
savings on Nexavar treatments, which have significantly shrunk his tumors
and brought his blood levels to within normal ranges.

* Christopher Loder, a Bayer spokesman, said that because of the changing
political climate in Egypt, Bayer's efforts to work with the government to
create a patient-access program for Nexavar hadn't been completed. "We have
great sympathy for what Ms. Mahmud and her family are experiencing," he
said in a statement. "We are optimistic that the necessary measures to
provide all patients with medications they require will be implemented
soon."


-------------
Bloomberg Businessweek
Politics & Policy

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-05/life-saving-medicine-high-costs-and-the-intractable-patent-puzzle

Life-Saving Medicine, High Costs, and the Intractable Patent Puzzle
By Andrew Martin March 05, 2014

In the middle of February, just as another winter snowstorm was about to
hit the East Coast, Nina Mahmud flew from her home in Florida to
Washington, D.C., to try a Michael Moore-style stunt to save her
father-in-law's life.

A representative of Bayer (BAY:GR) was set to speak at a hearing of the
U.S. International Trade Commission. Mahmud was going to ask her how the
pharmaceutical giant could let her father-in-law, a shopkeeper in Egypt
suffering from liver cancer, bankrupt himself to pay for a life-saving
treatment. The drug, Nexavar, costs him about $115 a day in Egypt, she
said, while his monthly salary is less than $300.

It's a situation that underscores the sobering global economies that govern
who has access to medicine. The hearing in Washington featured a German
pharmaceutical company testifying to U.S. officials about the dangers of
India's trade policies--with Mahmud, a 35-year-old mother of two, there at
the margins to advocate for her Egyptian relative. India had set events in
motion by deciding Nexavar was too expensive and allowing for production of
a generic version, and Bayer wanted help from the U.S. to punish India.

The problem of affordable medicine goes far beyond India and Egypt,
reaching into even the wealthiest economies. The monthly costs of many
cancer drugs now exceed $10,000 and a few are more than triple that amount.
Recently the price of a breakthrough drug for hepatitis C--$84,000 for a
12-week treatment--touched off a backlash against its manufacturer, Gilead
Sciences (GILD).

Patents on such drugs give the manufacturers a monopoly--in the U.S. it
lasts 20 years from the date of filing--so the costs of research and
development can be recouped and revenues can be invested in new innovations
(along with profit for shareholders). The U.S. has pushed to broaden
patents and other intellectual-property protections around the globe
through trade agreements.

But critics such as Mahmud contend that the system puts profit ahead of
patients, creating a situation in which people with money or good health
insurance get medicine, and the rest of the world goes without. India has
become the epicenter of the current debate, infuriating drug companies by
refusing to extend some patents and, in the case of Nexavar, allowing
generic versions to be manufactured while patents are still valid.

Bayer's chief executive, Marijn Dekkers, accused India of theft by allowing
the generic version during a public appearance in December. "We did not
develop this product for the Indian market, let's be honest," he said of
Nexavar. "We developed this product for Western patients who can afford
this product, quite honestly. It is an expensive product, being an oncology
product. But you know the risk in these situations is always spillover. If
this generic Indian company is now going to sell this product, then South
Africa, and then New Zealand, you never know, you know, how this is going
to spill over." (Dekkers has since stated that his remarks were spoken out
of frustration at the Indian government and "could not be more opposite to
what I want and we do at Bayer.")

Even so, his remarks continue to rankle Mahmud. "It reminds me of a quote a
professor once asked me," Mahmud says. "If you saw someone drowning, is it
illegal to stand there and watch them? The answer is no. But it's immoral.
It's disgusting."

Mahmud said she and her husband, both Egyptian by birth, have watched
helplessly as her husband's father, Fathi Aboseada, has drained his life
savings on Nexavar treatments, which have significantly shrunk his tumors
and brought his blood levels to within normal ranges.

She was doing research online when she came across James Love, director of
Knowledge Ecology International, a frequent critic of American drug patent
laws who was testifying at the International Trade Commission hearing. Love
invited her to attend, at his organization's expense, setting up the
confrontation with Bayer in an effort to generate publicity about the costs
of high drug prices.

During a break in the proceedings, Mahmud said she introduced herself to
Julie Corcoran, director of public policy for Bayer, who promised to look
into the situation.

Christopher Loder, a Bayer spokesman, said that because of the changing
political climate in Egypt, Bayer's efforts to work with the government to
create a patient-access program for Nexavar hadn't been completed. "We have
great sympathy for what Ms. Mahmud and her family are experiencing," he
said in a statement. "We are optimistic that the necessary measures to
provide all patients with medications they require will be implemented
soon."

Mahmud said she is now trying to figure out if it is possible, and even
legal, to ship generic Nexavar from India to Egypt. The cost of the generic
drug in India is about $108 per month. The International Trade Commission,
meanwhile, is preparing a report on how India's policies affect the U.S.
economy, which is scheduled to be delivered to Congress in November.

Martin is a reporter for Bloomberg News in New York.



-- 
James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
http://www.keionline.org, KEI DC tel: +1.202.332.2670, US Mobile:
+1.202.361.3040, Geneva Mobile: +41.76.413.6584,   twitter.com/jamie_love



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