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There’s No Money In A Cure

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Different individuals relate to different causes, especially in terms of diseases and the like. Sure, nobody wants everyone to get sick, but people who’ve had a relative die from breast cancer may donate more money to finding a cure for breast cancer than they would, say, a cure for heart disease. One article I read (dated 2011) states that between grants and donations, breast cancer alone receives more than $6 billion dollars annually. That’s a whole lot of money.

You may be expecting me to follow up that little tidbit with the question of, “Where does the money go?” Well, that’s not what I’m asking. What I am asking is, “Why haven’t we found a cure yet?”

That’s easy. You don’t make money from a cure. You make money from treatments.

I’m not saying that big pharmaceutical companies are evil. I’m not saying that the people working for them (and for the government, or whoever they work for wherever they may be) aren’t actively seeking a cure for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, HIV, etc.

But I am saying that the people in charge of those big pharmaceutical companies are greedy assholes.

In the US, a prescription drug generally has a patent life of 20 years. During that time, generics cannot be made of the drug due to the patent laws of the US. At the end of those 20 years, the gov’t can tack on another 5 years, once again pushing back the generic production of a prescription drug.

I’m sure many of you out there take generic versions of drugs. Hell, I do. They come with all those funky names, instead of the catchy names that sound cool on commercials. Metoprolol Succinate just doesn’t roll off the tongue like Toprol XL, does it?

Of course, different countries have different patent laws, and they have different ways of dealing with medicine. Many people in the US order meds from Canada via the internet because of the price difference.

In India, there is a panel looking into what drugs to produce at a much, much lower cost for local sale. Some of the drugs they’re looking at are made by some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies – Pfizer, Novartis AG, Merck, Bristol-Meyers, etc. And these drug companies are losing their ever-loving minds over it. Because when I say these drugs will be available locally at a much, much lower cost, I mean much, much lower: they’ll be sold at a 97% discount.

Wow. Wish I liked curry.

Here’s a quote from BusinessWeek. I think you’ll appreciate what this guy has to say:

Natco Pharma Ltd. (NTCPH) applied directly to India’s patents office and was awarded the nation’s first compulsory license in March 2012 to make a copy of Bayer’s Nexavar cancer drug at a 97 percent discount to the original product. In March last year, Bayer lost its bid to stop Natco from making the generic drug and is appealing the decision at the Mumbai High Court.

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.”

Well, hey – at least he admits it. Back to the article.

For more context, note that the Bayer price for Nexavar was $65 thousand USD, per year, in India, and that Bayer is currently arguing that the $65 thousand price is “reasonably affordable” to the India Supreme Court.  It is worth noting that Dekkers, who holds both Dutch and U.S. citizenship, is a member of the Board of Directors of General Electric, another company that takes a very hard line on intellectual property issues.

I’m pretty sure this guy and I have very different ideas of what the word “reasonable” means.

You will, however, be happy to know that the US gov’t has taken the side of Bayer in this case, helping Mr. Dekker fight his cause for his reasonable price.

Say it with me: USA! USA! USA!

You all take care of each other (and if at all possible, use generic medicines to do it!).

Best,
Clyde O. Watson

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