Issue: Supply of antibiotic Cipro to US Government
It was hailed as the 'wonder drug of the anthrax scare' (The Times,
19/10) that had 'revitalised its moribund German manufacturer, Bayer'
(The Independent, 23/10).
But the supply of the powerful antibiotic, Cipro, to the US Government
in the wake of the recent anthrax attacks in America soon saw the
headlines turning sour as Bayer and government officials found
themselves deep in controversy amid claims that the German drugs
conglomerate could not meet demand.
Calls to override Cipro's patent and order cheap copies put the US
Government in an 'embarrassing predicament' (bbc.co.uk, 29/10).
'On drug patents the US never budges,' advised The Guardian (23/10), but
just 24 hours later it was reporting the U-turn of US health secretary
It was later said that he had used 'strong-arm negotiating tactics'
(nytimes.com, 29/10) and put 'pragmatism before ideology'
(startribune.com, 29/10) in threatening to suspend the patent if the
cost of Cipro was not reduced.
Bayer 'bowed to demands' (The Guardian, 25/10) and slashed the
Meanwhile, the Canadian Government - earlier widely reported as having
'thrown the Cipro patent out of the window' (The Times, 22/10) -
capitulated in the face of legal threats from Bayer and the drug
industry was once again lambasted.
'Cipro saga exposes how drug-makers protect profits,' ran the headline
on usatoday.com (29/10).
On the same day, ananova.com was reporting that Cipro had been 'dropped
as the first choice of drug by US health officials'. This was later
denied by Bayer spokesperson, Michael Diehl.
Nobody can claim to have come out of the debacle with their reputation
And whatever happens next on the patent issue, many believe that the
damage to the reputations of those involved has already been done.
As The Sunday Telegraph's (28/10) Richard Fletcher pointed out: 'The
rights and wrongs of drug patents and responsibilities are no longer
just an issue for the liberal classes.'
Businessweek.com (29/10) agreed: 'The very stability of the drug patent
system may be in question.'
Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found