A rheumatologist based in Geneva, Switzerland, says he will no longer prescribe Novartis medicines to patients as a way of protesting jobs cuts and plant closings the drugmaker is undertaking in the country, according to a blog he wrote for La Tribune de Geneve.
“My only way of protesting is to go on a prescription strike,” Bertrand Buchs wrote, according to The Local. He argues that he doesn’t understand “the financial logic” behind the decision to close one particular facility that employs a couple of hundred people, since their salaries “are only a small detail in the balance sheet."
Here is a translation: "I can not understand the economic logic to close the production...and fire 220 people," wrote Bertrand Buchs. "...The strong franc, ok. Low margins of generic, ok. Rules of marketing drugs more and more stringent, ok. The duty to anticipate the future, ok. 220 of 120 000 employees, or 0.2%. 200 million economy. There, I have trouble. A detail in a report. What will improve productivity? That cover it? I feel like you're playing with people. Pawns unimportant. I can no longer agree" (see more here, but be sure to scroll down for the item headlined "I Boycott").
His protest comes just two weeks after Novartis announced plans to eliminate another 2,000 jobs, including 1,100 in Switzerland, which is a blow to the country where the drugmaker is based. The cuts involve shuttering two production facilities there, as well as shifting various R&D work to other countries, including the US and India (back story).
The announcement has provoked strong emotions. Along with regular protests at Novartis facilities, a local trade union and the youth faction of the Socialist Party recently held a demonstration outside the villa inhabited by Novartis chairman Dan Vasella (read here).
Meanwhile, the Association of Physicians of Geneva has given him its support "unanimously" and "without hesitation," according to another post Buchs wrote on his blog. He said he also plans to ask his colleagues to join his protest at an upcoming meeting. "Hoping that my small pebble will make some ripples on the surface of the water."
However, Buchs tells the Tribune that he will not let his boycott affect his patients. Although there are many equivalent meds available, "if a specific treatment requires the Novartis brand, I will give in.” He adds that he intends to tell his patients about his boycott, but they "always have the final say."
The Directorate-General for Health in Geneva is unperturbed by the boycott. "The therapist has the freedom to prescribe a particular drug, and if the interest of the patient is respected, I don’t see where there's a problem,” Adrien Broad, head of the directorate, tells La Tribune de Genève.
As for Novartis, a spokesperson for the drugmaker tells the paper that "the announcement of the closing of the production site has created several reactions in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. For us the demands of people involved are important, so we try to talk to them directly about the reasons behind (the decision).”