Press Release: Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany): BAYER: Marketing Expenses Concealed
In 2011 BAYER spent nearly 9 billion EUR on sales and advertising. These expenses include the entire gray area of pharmaceutical marketing: Medication samples, continuing education courses for physicians, pharmaceutical sales reps, etc. In the same period, only 2.9 billion EUR was spent on research. This demonstrates once again that the high price of medicines is due not to development costs but to the exorbitant amount of marketing. The Coalition against BAYER Dangers has introduced a countermotion to the upcoming BAYER shareholder meeting and demands that the Board of Management not be ratified.
Stockholders are not given any information on BAYER’s sales and marketing expenditures. Even though these expenses swallow up EUR 8.96 billion or a quarter of BAYER’s sales, the company will not say what this sum is actually used for.
Axel Koehler-Schnura, founder of the *Coalition against BAYER Dangers*says: “Only eight lines of the 265-page Bayer Annual Report are dedicated to these expenses, despite the fact that this is the second-largest item after labor costs. Nowhere in the BAYER figures is the sum broken down further. This is an easy way to conceal enormous amounts of money.” Koehler-Schnura has introduced a countermotion to BAYER´s shareholder meeting on April 27 and demands not to ratify the board.
In these 9 billion Euro all the expenses aimed at influencing the public – physicians, politicians, specialist associations, supervisory authorities, the media etc, are hidden: advertising in newspapers and magazines, TV and electronic media; drug samples for physicians, clinics and hospitals; expenses for lobbying associations; the cost of pharmaceutical sales reps (the cost item covering the expenses for these “door-to-door salespeople” amounts to over EUR 4 billion alone); post-marketing observation studies, the results of which generally disappear into a drawer; payments to medical associations and self-help groups; financing of continuing education and congresses for physicians etc.
At the same time, research and development costs fell last year to EUR 2.9 billion. BAYER even closed some of its development departments. This contradicts the statement made by Marijn Dekkers when he took office: “I see my biggest task as increasing our innovative strength”
BAYER has now discovered the internet as a new stomping ground for marketing activities, and is putting more and more money into it. Since advertising is banned for prescription drugs, the websites are camouflaged as an “information service”. Sites such as http://www.pille.com on contraceptive pills, however, serve one sole purpose despite giving the appearance of a practical guide: to increase sales of BAYER products.
The dubious site LoveGent.de serves the same purpose for the LEVITRA “virility pill.” It comes wrapped as a men’s magazine, offering relevant articles on topics such as “quickies,” “men’s toys” or “prostitution” as well as “expert” advice from Dr. Frank Sommer. There is frequent talk of potency pills or impotence drugs – but naturally without any mention of their side effects such as hearing damage, vision problems or temporary loss of memory. Only in the small print there is a reference to the fact that the BAYER subsidiary JENAPHARM is actually responsible for the site.
Another BAYER website with a similar intent to camouflage is http://www.testosteron.de. The job of this site is to establish testosterone deficiency as an apparent illness among men and to sell them the appropriate pills to remedy the situation. In fact, there is no proof that the administration of hormones helps to alleviate age-related disorders, nor have the long-term risks of testosterone treatment been clarified.
In the real world, too, BAYER frequently operates in the gray areas of marketing. BAYER’s medical scientists are involved in so-called observation studies, for example with the multiple sclerosis product BETAFERON. The physicians extract from their patients a few details on the tolerability of the drug and fill out a short questionnaire. The entire procedure is of little scientific value: The data serves only to legitimize payments to physicians and to start the patients on the new medication.
Equally questionable is the sponsoring of self-help groups. Payments are made primarily to groups that BAYER can supply with the relevant drugs, such as associations for diabetes, cancer, hemophilia and multiple sclerosis patients.
Another area of criticism is the massive lobbying with which BAYER is aiming to overturn the EU-wide ban on the advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals. This would result in even more marketing in the guise of “patient information.”
“The BAYER Board takes no action to prevent the practice of concealing these marketing expenditures. It also condones questionable advertising methods. For this reason, its actions should not be ratified”, Axel Koehler-Schnura concludes.