By Nikolai Brown

In a crass yet frank admission, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers said the company’s new cancer drug, Nexavar, is not “for Indians,” but “for western patients who can afford it.” The statement came in the wake of a recent ruling by an Indian court that certain life-saving drugs could be produced and distributed at 97% of the brand-name price.

While Dekkers’ earnest admission is contemptible on a certain level, the ideological defense mounted by bourgeois media and others reveals a deeper level of truth:

‘Of course we want to make sure people have access to life-saving drugs,’ sycophants and beneficiaries of capitalism emphatically explain, ‘yet widespread violations of intellectual property rights erases the incentive to invest incredible resources into developing these drugs in the first place… Eventually, everyone [who is still alive] will benefit from adhering to the exclusive rights of intellectual property.’

Such apologism for Bayer unwittingly implicates the wider system: ‘in order to produce life-saving drugs, we need to restrict access via pricing measures, dooming many to unnecessary suffering and death, so that we can make a profit and do it again.’ Of course, ‘everyone’ will ‘eventually’ receive hypothetical benefits over the long-run.

What will they promise next? Flying cars and elixirs to restore youth?

Bayer’s sordid history and the cancer industrial complex

Bayer was founded in 1863 in Barmen, Germany. In 1899, it trademarked aspirin. The previous year, it trademarked heroin and marketed it as a children’s cough medicine “without side-effects.”

During World War I, the company turned its attention toward the manufacturing of chemical weapons and even founded a “School for Chemical Warfare.”

Following the war Bayer joined with other chemical manufacturing firms to form Farben, the largest company in Germany at the time and the largest contributor to Hitler’s election campaign.

During the Second World War, Farben used slave labor in many of it factories and mines. Working with the Nazi regime, Farben owned the patent to Zyklon B, the cyanide-based gas used to murder over a million people in concentration camps throughout occupied Europe, which it produced without any odorant. In 1946, the Nuremburg Tribunal concluded that without Farben, WWII would not have been possible.

Only 13 of the 24 Farben board members indicted on crimes against humanity were sentenced to prison, and those who did received sentences which were, in the words of the prosecutors, “light enough to please a chicken thief.” Additionally, many of the Nazi-supporting executives and managers returned to the “new” companies that Farben’s assets were divided into in 1952.

Today, Bayer is a huge conglomerate with three primary divisions: Bayer HealthCare, which makes drugs and medical equipment; Bayer MaterialScience, which produces polymers and plastics; and Bayer CropScience, which produces pairings of GM crops and agricultural chemicals. Essentially, Bayer is three large companies, two of which produce or use materials which cause medical conditions like cancer, one which produces cures for medical conditions like cancer – but only for people who can can afford it.

The political economy of intellectual property

India is not the only country attempting to produce generic versions of patented drugs at a significantly lower cost. South Africa recently caused a row after a similar court ruling allowing for the low-cost local manufacturing and distribution of internationally-patented drugs. In both cases, western capital has threatened punitive actions and even more restricted access to new drugs in the future.

The controversy of local manufacturing of drugs highlights some of the contours of global contradictions. In this case, the bourgeoisie of a small handful of ascendant Third World countries are feeling more at liberty to challenge the economic hegemony of trilateral imperialism. Western imperialism, for its part, is feeling evermore threatened and determined to maintain its hegemony.

Economically speaking, patents and intellectual property is a type of monopoly capital. When joined with other forms of finance capital, i.e., insurance companies which typically pay the bulk of expensive treatments for those privileged enough to be covered, such monopoly capital allows for the circulation and concentration of capital in the core at the expense of the periphery. Hence, not only do intellectual property rights necessarily restrict access to life-saving medicine for those who cannot afford it, they are part of a system which creates the very conditions whereby the world’s masses are typically poor in the first place.

You can’t patent a solution

It is clear that a real solution to global health will not found within the modern capitalist-imperialist system. After all, under capitalism if pharmaceutical companies can not restrict access to their drugs to secure a profit, they have no purpose to exist and would actually fail as a company. The very business model of the drug companies is predicated within a larger system in which a majority of people will not be able to afford their products or services.

A real solution must be sought through a new governing economic principle: democratically and rationally producing and distributing the satisfaction of wants and needs. Such an economic system can only be instituted through revolution: the overthrow of capital-imperialist productive and social relations – intellectual property rights and all – and the economic and political ascendancy of the world’s exploited and oppressed masses.






Join the conversation! 14 Comments

  1. Thank you for this piece. India’s Supreme Court is on the side of the forces of GOOD for once, and corporations would like to hold lives hostage for profit. Because of course, they only recover their huge investments, not mint money. #sarcasm

    Bayer should get into environmentally friendly pesticides. Their CEO is toxic enough to kill most inferior life forms on contact.

    Reblogging this to reach more Indians.

    • Much as I hate the CEOs comments, there is some truth in it.
      The generic manufacturers like Reddys Labs, Ranbaxy are no saint either! They lift the composition euphemism for cheating, and produce it inIndian labor market and makeahuge profit for themselves! Ranbaxy was caught with malpractice and shady things harmful for patients, thankfully FDA caught them.

      If there are no incentives for the original designers,future R&D will suffer

      • There are already incentives.

        The people who made that medicine aren’t getting further compensation when Bayer sells it for huge profits.

        No one is saying there shouldn’t be any profit. Just that there is no reason not to open dozens of factories making it.

        They’re specifically choosing not to produce enough to have huge profit margins – not just huge total profits, since selling to millions more people would and probably will have huge total profits.

        Profit motive kills people. Why are we using it as an excuse to keep life saving medicines from people?

  2. So where are the socialist cures I’m sure Cuba has cured cancer right. Haha you turd burglars

    • Man you people are so ignorant.


      “That Cuba has already developed four vaccines or inoculations against different types of cancer is without doubt important news for humanity. The World Health Organisation says each year about 8 million people die from this illness.

      However, the international mainstream media have almost totally ignored this news.

      Last year, Cuba patented the first therapeutic vaccine against advanced lung cancer in the world, called CIMAVAX-EGF. In January, the second one, called Racotumomab, was announced.

      Clinical testing in 86 countries shows that these vaccines, although they don’t cure the illness, do managed to reduce tumours and allow for a stable stage of the illness, thereby increasing hope and quality of life.

      The Molecular Immunology Centre of Havana, a Cuban state organisation, is the creator of all these vaccines.”

      • That’s true, and of course Cuba deserves recognition that it is not receiving from the imperialist media. But it should be borne in mind as well that Cuba is not a socialist country.

  3. Every once in a while these nazi-blinded-by-power-CEOs make mistakes and tell the truth about the whole pharmaceutical scam.
    It’s no wonder profit comes before people.

  4. I don’t understand what I just read on not supplying medicine for poor Indians. Aren’t they people also ? I always thought they were just like us , anyway . Just a little darker and some are lighter than us I know a few of them and I see nothing wrong with them. This guy whomever he is sould be reprimanded for what he has said and also fired from his job. Doesn’t sound like he is worth a pound of sand. or his mother and father didn’t teach him properly about people who ever they are . What country did he come from anyway?

  5. This is so stuiped it does not deserve my comment. Poor ,rich ,what ever . We are all humans and deserve the same treatments.

  6. The claim that the development of pharmaceutical products is not possible without patents reflects the insanity of capitalist ideology. Even under capitalism, it is quite possible to nationalize—or even internationalize—the entire pharmaceutical sector, or at least that part of it that does research and development. Simply abolish pharmaceutical patents and make research the responsibility of the state. All results would then become public knowledge, freely available to the entire world. Other aspects of the economy are put into the public sector; why not pharmaceutical development?

    Indeed, the putative need for patents actually shows that capitalist competition does not work in the pharmaceutical industry. A patent, after all, is a state-granted monopoly. If competition works so brilliantly, why are monopolies essential?

    Under capitalism, hundreds of millions of people die—nay, are killed—for the sake of profits.

  7. What a despicable and sad human being Marijn Dekkers is. It’s easy to blame capitalism for this problem, but the fault actually lies with those individual companies that are committing these horrible acts.

    There are plenty of capitalistic companies that have done well by their customers and constituents, though everyone knows news stories like this will get more headlines than a story about a corporation doing good. There are also horrible corporations in other economic environments (the corporation heads in China are not necessarily any better or worse than Dekkers, after all).

    Instead of holding the economic concept of ‘capitalism’ as the root cause of situations like this, let’s put it into perspective and actually hold these individuals accountable for withholding cancer treatment and enforcing class warfare against the poor who cannot afford lifesaving treatments (“Indians” or otherwise).

    By the way Klaas, thank you so much for your post about Cuban vaccines. I had not heard anything about them, but it’s very sad that such information isn’t being shared more simply because of age-old animosity between Cuba and the rest of the “free world.” What a shame.


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