Merck halts shipments of key cancer drug to Greece

The German pharmaceuticals maker Merck will no longer deliver the cancer drug Erbitux to Greek hospitals, according to a statement from the company today. The drug also known as cetuximab is often used for patients with head and neck cancers. The move to halt distribution is a sign of a worsening economic and budget crisis, and its impact on critical services including care for cancer patients. (thanks, Gerrit)


  1. Greece should immediately declare Merck’s drug patents null and void in Greece and begin manufacture themselves.

      1.  withdraw from the euro and declare that they’ll pay all their debts in drachmas and issue bonds. actually collect taxes from the rich for once.

        1. Well, no outside force is preventing them from collecting taxes.  But for some strange reasons, they’d rather not.

      2. they could probably get for pennies as a generic from india.  if they couldn’t just work it as humanitarian aid.   That would probably violate an intellectual property treaty or trade agreement somewhere though.   then we’d have to invade.

  2. Makes sense, to maybe Ayn Rand or some other amoral psychopath.

    If we start to include things like ‘basic human decency’ in our economic decisions, all is lost.  (I am being ironic).

    That said, it isn’t necessarily the job of a for-profit corporation to provide a social service.  It is our job, as humans, to provide those services for our fellow humans.  We can do that in thousands of possible ways, but the most efficient and effective so far has been universal health care in some countries – why not all countries?

    1. Because then wealthy people won’t have yet another exploitable market for their profiteering and we cannot infringe on their natural right to be total Christ-what-assholes.

    2. It also isn’t the job of a for-profit corporation to provide social commentary, but this is Merck doing that.

      They should have their patent stripped and their Board of Directors jailed for allowing this.

    3.  Part of me wants to charge Merck executives with manslaughter.  Yes, I know it is irrational.

        1. What I meant by “irrational” was then even if it forced a company out of business they’d have to provide free medicine under such a law.  Not exactly a smart thing to do.  If it was well within their means and they were just holding back for profit reasons then it might be more reasonable.

    4. Shoe on the other foot, is it a job for society to provide services to for-profit corporations, like patents and tax breaks?

  3. The end of the article states it’s still available for purchase in pharmacies, because, you know, it’s only $30K for a two month course!

  4. Important clarification:  the German company Merck KGaA are the soul-less corporate greedmongers behind this story, not the U.S. pharma company Merck.   

      1. Pfizer (biggest U.S. pharmaceutical in terms of revenues) isn’t sending Medrol (cortisone) to Greece at the moment. That is only one of around *700* drugs that are unavailable in Greece as we speak. They’re doing it “unofficially”. Merck just decided to make it official.

        As for buying it at pharmacies… Yeah… Sure. Even if you do have 30K to spend (who does, in Greece these days?), the pharmacist who’s going to have to order it and pay for it *in advance* probably doesn’t have 30K to spend –for every patient that might order it.

        Yes. Pharmacies are forced to pay the pharma companies in advance. Have been doing so for almost 2 years. And then wait to be reimbursed by patients’ insurance funds, which are also of course going bankrupt, for various reasons, but also because they had owned government bonds… Pharmacists are owed millions of euros. And then are asked to pay taxes that are going up every day on money they have never received.

        Talking about this makes me sick with rage…
        My husband’s grandmother needs Heparin as we speak, and it is nowhere to be found. It is simply unavailable. Another one of those ‘unofficially’ not being sent to Greece.

        I agree with lafave, btw… They should declare the patent null and void immediately and put the drug put into production.

  5. Clearly, low-income Greeks do not need cancer drugs.  What they need is austerity.  (I do not know how to say this in German.)

    1. A generation or three of war movies have taught me that heartless, psychopathic utterings are most chilling in German (or failing that, a German or British accent).

  6. After 3 years have passed with no visible progress in how we in Greece handle our budget and the Greek state ows 6+ billion euros to companies inside Greece I see no reason why any company would want to do business for free with Greece. Not one public sector employee has been laid off (not even the ones that are caught stealing), unemployment is 25%+ , taxation is rising having the same income taxed two and three times (even past years’ income) and yet it’s Merck’s fault that they don’t want to end up with large shipments unpaid if Greece goes bankrupt?

    1. I think the argument here is more like:
      “OK, the ‘making money’ game is fun and all but real human beings are dying here.  Maybe there’s more important things than money?”

      I mean, however pissed off you are about bad governance in Greece do you think the appropriate punishment is to let them die of cancer?  (The people with cancer are not necessarily the ones responsible for the bad governance, incidentally.)

      1. Is that your offer to personally pay for medicine for people in Greece?  Or does your argument only apply to other people’s money?  I sincerely hope it’s the first, but fear it is the second.

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