Marijn Dekkers, chief executive at Bayer, has expressed his concerns about the pricing squeeze being put on innovative pharmaceutical groups whose efforts, he feels, are massively under-appreciated by society as a whole.

Speaking at Bayer's annual press conference in Leverkusen, Dr Dekkers (pictured) said it is "crucial to have an environment that views innovation as something desirable and values it accordingly". He acknowledged that governments are under pressure to reduce costs but told PharmaTimes World News that at the moment, their approach is "we have to save, quick, quick" and there is a sense of panic pervading responses to the problem".

Dr Dekkers said Bayer will "contribute to the development of cost-effective solutions…but it’s important to keep a sense of proportion", adding that "the money we earn from today’s medicines pays for the development of tomorrow’s medicines". He gave the example of the firm's new anticoagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban) which has cost Bayer and partner Johnson & Johnson some 2 billion euros to research and develop.

However, if revenues from current products are too sharply reduced, "the medium-term effect may be that research-based pharmaceutical companies will lack the resources they need to develop medicines in the future". He told PharmaTimes World News that this would be "extremely unfortunate".

The Bayer chief went on to say that "a fundamental problem" is society’s "general lack of appreciation for innovations". If a patient has a serious illness and is doing better following treatment with a drug, "he will obviously thank his doctor and maybe praise the hospital too". However, "it rarely occurs to anyone to thank the inventor and manufacturer of the medicine".

Patients have no idea who makes life-saving drugs

Dr Dekkers added that most patients have no idea who makes the drugs, "although it was that company that took the considerable financial risk and invested the substantial amount of time and resources necessary to enable the doctor and the hospital to help the patient at all".

His comments came as Bayer announced full-year financials which show that net income rose 89.9% to 2.47 billion euros, while sales were up 4.1% to 36.53 billion euros.

Sales at the German group’s healthcare division edged up 1.5% to 17.17 billion euros, while pharmaceutical revenues were flat at 9.95 billion euros.

As for specific drugs, the Yaz/Yasmin/Yasminelle (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol) contraceptive franchise were down 3.7% to 1.07 billion euros, hit by generics in the USA, while revenues of Betaferon/Betaseron (interferon beta 1b) for multiple sclerosis fell 7.4% to 1.12 billion euros, hit by increased competition and European health system reforms.

Sales of the haemophilia agent Kogenate (recombinant antihaemophilic factor) increased 7.1% to 1.08 billion euros, while Nexavar (sorafenib), which is approved for liver as well as advanced kidney cancer, contributed 725 million euros, up 2.8%. Xarelto had sales of 86 million euros.

That figure will soar in the next couple of years and Dr Dekkers reiterated the forecast that Xarelto could reach peak sales of more than 2 billion euros across all indications. He also expects three other drugs - alpharadin for prostate cancer, regorafenib to treat advanced colorectal cancer and Eylea/VEGF Trap-Eye (aflibercept) to become blockbusters.

Likes the look of Pfizer animal health

He went on to say growth in pharmaceuticals will be augmented by acquisitions and told PharmaTimes World News he is not ruling out a major deal. When asked by this reporter if he was interested in making a bid for Pfizer's animal health unit, he described it as "a great business", but would not be drawn further.