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Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-MN03, is working on something (OK, let's grant that right there he's differentiating himself from most of his caucus). Specifically, he thinks impoverished people in the third world should somehow pay $5,500/month for a Bayer drug, and he wants India to fix its intellectual property laws, using Big Pharma's definition of "fix".

The linked article doesn't quote the actual conversation between Paulsen and Indian trade officials, so I'll take my best guess at what was said:

India: We have a lot of very poor people who can't afford the prices foreign drug companies demand. What are we supposed to do, just let them die when they can't pay several times their annual income?

Paulsen: Yeah yeah, poor people, blah de blah. So when will you change your laws so drug corporations make more money?

OK, maybe that's unfair, so let's clear it up: Bayer isn't the only company whose answer to sick poor people is "Where's my money?"

The underlying issue is India has a lot of poor people, but relatively few have health insurance. Since drug companies sometimes demand more money in a month than most Indians make in a year, as in the Star Tribune's example of Bayer's Nexavar, the Indian government sometimes allows domestic drug manufacturers to make generic versions of drugs that are still under patent protection here. Foreign (from an Indian point of view) drug companies hate that.

Clearly some solution is needed, so the pharmaceutical industry is working with Indian authorities to find some way make drugs available at an affordable price while offering some protection of intellectual property rights. Ha, just kidding! No, they did what you might expect, and found some congressman to take up their cause. Rep. Erik Paulsen, serving in Congress at a time when the US has a plentiful supply of problems, decided the best use of his time was to help large corporations to squeeze every last rupee from impoverished people dying of treatable conditions.

Over Bayer’s protests, India allowed marketing of a generic $175-per-month version of Nexavar, destroying what Bayer hoped would be an exclusive, lucrative market for a patent-protected brand name ­product it sold for $5,500 a month. In exchange, Indian officials ordered the generic drugmaker to pay Bayer a licensing fee that amounted to a fraction of what Bayer expected to earn.

Paulsen has written to President Obama proposing that the White House pressure the Indians diplomatically.

Good for Paulsen, cutting through the issue to see that the problem of drugs being too expensive for the people who need them is a source of hardship --- for global drug companies.

File this under "Do you think we're stupid?":

Drug companies say they sometimes offer to donate drugs to the poor. They may also choose to sell them at a discount. Indian officials have chosen not to depend on voluntary corporate philanthropy for critical health treatments.
If Paulsen really wanted to solve the underlying problem, he'd recognize that drugs are just different from patents for computer parts or software, or trademark protection for cars or copyright protection for movies. The Indian government doesn't have to be cavalier towards drug patents to raise the point that they'd rather their people didn't die. There's has some way to let drug companies recover costs, stay in business, and still make their products available. License the Indian manufacturers, make the generics themselves, ask for subsidy to sell below cost ... there has to be some way to make it work.

Step one, Big Pharma's congressman needs to tell them that lobbying for the US government to pressure India isn't the solution. Well, maybe the congressman's official constituents need to tell him to start there.

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