MADRID, 1 Nov (APM) - Daily newspaper El País on Wednesday carried an interview with Tasuku Honjo, Nobel laureate and contributor to the development of Bristol-Myers Squibb's cancer immunotherapy Opdivo (nivolumab), who said he may sue Japan's Ono Pharmaceutical over his share of the patent income.
Honjo's work led to the development of PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo, which is sold at more than €100,000 per patient. The drug can be efficient in 25% of patients. It is approved for treating melanoma, lung, kidney and liver cancer. More indications are expected, with 2,000 ongoing trials. Annual sales of nivolumab exceed €4.1 billion, El País noted.
Honjo feels he has been fooled. He signed a patent agreement with Japan's Ono Pharmaceutical in 2006. Later on, the company signed a licensing agreement with BMS, which is now selling it with a price tag which goes from €50,000 to more than €100,000 depending on the country.
Honjo receives less than 1% of sales. He wants a higher percentage and intends to donate the money to Kyoto University, where he is a professor, he told El País.
"As scientists, we do not participate in drug pricing. It depends on each country, its welfare status, so I cannot comment on that. Naturally, it would be better if it [Opdivo] were cheaper, so everybody could benefit from it. There is always the same problem with drugs. Even penicillin was expensive when it was launched. As time passed, it became affordable for everyone," he said.
Honjo told the newspaper that there are ongoing efforts to settle the dispute over his share of Opdivo's patent income. He said that academia is "the most stupid of groups" when it comes to managing patents. According to Honjo, good faith was expected from the company, but he said it lied. He also warned that if there is not an agreement on the patent share, he will sue Ono Pharmaceutical.
He said he would be willing to accept a 5% share. The money from the patent would be donated to Kyoto University's fund for young researchers, he said.
According to Honjo, a publicly-owned pharmaceutical company would not be the best alternative to the current patent model "because public management is usually disastrous". He said private companies are better, but they must be very transparent and honest. "They have the great responsibility of supporting people's healthcare. Governments must, of course, use regulation to guarantee the welfare state," he added.
New political party proposes creating publicly-owned pharma
Íñigo Errejón, head of newly-founded political party Más País, has proposed the creation of a public pharmaceutical company in order to avoid paying for new medicines' patents, EFE agency, daily newspapers El Diario, Público and a number of medical journals reported on Saturday. El Día carried the story on Thursday.
A public pharmaceutical company would research, develop, manufacture and sell medicines in Spain, guarantee supplies, promote R&D in rare diseases, avoid paying for overseas patents and would additionally create jobs, Errejón has argued.
The plan would also attract Spanish scientific talent. According to Errejón, highly-qualified scientists have to leave Spain and work abroad. There, they contribute to drug patents that eventually Spain has to pay for in the form of expensive medicines, El Diario reported.
Bayer to axe 75 jobs in Catalonia
Bayer is looking to shed 75 jobs in Catalonia region, Europa Press agency, daily newspapers La Vanguardia, El Periódico, financials El Economista, Expansión and a number of medical journals reported on Wednesday.
On the same day, financial Cinco Días carried an unrelated story about the company's increasing investments in Spain, with a focus on a four-year plan for its Madrid manufacturing plant.
PharmaMar's Q3 revenue fell €27 million in spite of expected increases in sales of its sarcoma treatment Yondelis (trabectedin), daily newspaper El Español reported on Monday.
The firm's situation is "dangerous" because this affects directly its R&D investment, down by more than 27% in Q1. The newspaper called this "worrisome", particularly in a sector where innovation is key.