[Ip-health] Reuters: Pfizer, Roche and Aspen face South African probe into cancer drug prices

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Jun 14 00:19:16 PDT 2017


https://www.reuters.com/article/us-safrica-pharmaceuticals-idUSKBN1941HG

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HEALTH NEWS | Tue Jun 13, 2017 | 12:30pm EDT

Pfizer, Roche and Aspen face South African probe into cancer drug prices

By Nqobile Dludla | PRETORIA

South Africa's competition watchdog has launched an investigation into
three drug companies accused of over-charging for cancer medicines, the
agency's chief said on Tuesday.

Tembinkosi Bonakele, head of the Competition Commission, said the agency
would investigate Aspen Pharmacare, Africa's biggest generic drug maker,
U.S. company Pfizer and Swiss-based Roche Holding.

"Here we have a suspicion. We think that the reason is excessive pricing by
the participants in the market. We have to investigate and bring people to
book," Bonakele told a news conference.

"The Competition Commission has identified the healthcare sector, and in
particular, pharmaceuticals, as a priority sector for its enforcement
efforts due to the likely negative impact that anti-competitive conduct in
that sector would have on consumers in general and specifically the poor
and vulnerable."

The Commission, which investigates cases before bringing them to the
Competition Tribunal for adjudication, said it suspected the lung cancer
treatment xalkori crizotinib sold by Pfizer had been excessively priced as
has the breast cancer drugs Herceptin and Herclon sold by Roche.

It also said it would look into whether Aspen, a local company based in
Durban, might have over-charged for Leukeran, Alkeran and Myleran cancer
treatments in South Africa.

Roche said in an email it had not received a formal notification from the
Commission when asked for comment.

"In case we receive a formal notification, we will be cooperating fully
with the authorities, will provide all required information and will
respond to the allegations," the company said.

Pfizer did not immediately respond to telephone requests for comment.

Aspen denied any wrongdoing, saying it had not increased its prices for
medicines used to treat leukemia beyond the margin approved by the South
African health department.

Some medicines in South Africa, including those sold by Roche and Aspen,
are considered too essential to let manufacturers set the prices.

"Aspen is committed to full and constructive engagement with the
Competition Commission in this investigation," the company said in a
statement.

Aspen is already under investigation by the European Commission over
allegations that it is overcharging for five key cancer drugs.

(Additional reporting by Paul Arnold in Zurich Writing by Tiisetso
Motsoeneng; Editing by Mark Potter, Greg Mahlich)

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Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org



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