Make Vital Cancer Treatments Affordable

Target: Marijn Dekkers, Bayer Chief Executive Officer

Goal: Condemn company for fighting to keep essential treatments out of reach for low-income patients

The nation of India has enacted strict patent laws in an effort to reign in the cost of essential medicines. As noted by Businessweek, “compulsory licenses can be awarded for some products still under patent if the original isn’t available locally at a reasonable price.” This policy is currently being challenged by Bayer, a pharmaceutical company based in the United States. The company’s cancer treatment drug Nexavar costs $65 thousand a year, a price few cancer patients can pay.

Bayer Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers is quoted as saying that Nexavar was never intended for the Indian market. Dekkers insisted, “We developed it for Western patients who could afford it,” yet his company has told the Indian Supreme Court that the $65 thousand price tag is “reasonably affordable” for its Indian market. Dekkers’ calloused comments will no doubt come back to haunt him in court.

The cost Bayer expects patients to pay for Nexavar is completely unrealistic. India’s push to make treatments affordable locally should be applauded, and should inspire governments worldwide to do the same. For now, the ultimate responsibility for cost control falls on the drug’s developers. Demand that Bayer make its life-saving medicines affordable for all.


Dear Marijn Dekkers, Bayer Chief Executive Officer,

Bayer’s effort to keep the cost of its cancer treatment drug Nexavar high demonstrates a clear focus on profits over people. For many patients in the United States, let alone in developing nations, a $65 thousand a year price tag is impossibly out of reach.

You admitted that Bayer “did not develop this medicine for Indians,” and yet in your appeal to the Indian Supreme Court you claim that the drug’s sky-high cost is in fact “reasonably affordable.” When the India-based Natco Pharma Ltd. is willing to produce a similar generic drug at a 97% savings, how can Bayer’s costs be justified? Even the expense of research and development is no excuse for keeping a life-saving medication out of reach for so many people.

I support India’s compulsory licensing laws, which allow competitors to produce drugs without permission while the original developer still controls the patent. Compulsory licensing will likely force Bayer and other pharmaceutical companies to reduce their prices, as generic drugs become more easily available to consumers. What you call “essentially theft” I see as a true expression of the open market, and the only humane course of action. I call on you to abandon Bayer’s appeal to the Indian Supreme Court, and to instead focus resources on developing essential treatments at an affordable price. If Bayer is unwilling to do this, someone else surely will.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Gracefairchildfisher via Wikimedia

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