Patients fear Genentech takeover

Genentech's board may not like Roche's takeover bid. But it's open to a higher figure. Patients, on the other hand, fear a buyout would interfere with their close ties to the California company.

Indeed, patients and their advocates have had unusually free access to Genentech's decision-makers. They've been able to offer input into pricing strategies and manufacturing, plus weigh in on clinical trials and get early info about ongoing studies. So it's not surprising that patient advocates are worried that their ability to talk to the company--even if they end up disagreeing--will dwindle. "I have trouble imagining that [it] will continue if Roche owns the company," one activist told the Wall Street Journal.

Roche says that it would take pains to maintain Genentech's independence, to safeguard its ability to innovate. "Our relationship with patients would be strengthened by this transaction," the company said in a statement, noting that the combined company would have more R&D resources and would improve "patients' access to new drugs."

Genentech has seen benefits from its close interaction with patients, too. Activist input has helped change clinical trial design for the better, the company has said, and helped establish access programs for new meds. Advocacy groups say they've helped the company recruit patients for trials and pressure the FDA for approvals, notably with Herceptin, the breast-cancer treatment.

- read the WSJ story