Bayer CEO: Shortsighted price cuts lead to long-term pain

Bayer chief Marijn Dekkers (photo) doesn't mind government interference of a sort. When he moved to Germany from the U.S., he found a strong focus on keeping jobs in Germany. "The system in most European countries is designed around job retention," Dekkers told The Wall Street Journal in an interview, "more so than the U.S." And that's fine with him; in fact, the U.S. might have worked a bit harder to retain jobs 15 to 20 years ago, he said.

And in China, the government's new healthcare focus presents a major opportunity, Dekkers said. Bayer has actually teamed up with the Chinese government to train doctors in the rural west. "We have a program where we help physicians in rural areas to train in modern medicine, and we are enabling 10,000 physicians to be trained with a sponsorship of Bayer," he says.

But rising government rebates and proposals to shorten patent life? Forget it. Governments are under pressure, Dekkers acknowledges. Pharma is an easy target, partly because consumers don't give the industry enough credit, he figures. Voters aren't turned off when a politician pressures drug companies to cut their prices, but they don't realize that when profits of current drugs are reduced, it cuts into the amount of money available to invest in development. "It feels good short-term," Dekkers said, "but for society it has consequences for the future."

- see the WSJ interview (sub. req.)