[Ip-health] The Fix the Patent Laws coalition press release: Coalition welcomes landmark Competition Commission probe into prices of cancer medicines

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Jun 14 04:13:09 PDT 2017

*Coalition welcomes landmark Competition Commission probe into prices of
cancer medicines*

*JOHANNESBURG, 13 JUNE 2017*: The Fix the Patent Laws coalition welcomes
the Competition Commission’s announcement earlier today that they will
investigate the pricing of several cancer medicines in South Africa. This
is a major victory in our struggle to ensure that all people in South
Africa can access the medicines they need to stay healthy and alive.

Earlier this year our coalition launched the Tobeka Daki Campaign for
Access to Trastuzumab during a global day of action
<http://www.fixthepatentlaws.org/?p=1127>. The campaign was named after
Tobeka Daki – a fearless comrade and cancer activist who died of breast
cancer in November 2016. Even though Tobeka’s doctor thought she should be
provided trastuzumab, Tobeka could never access the medicine due to its
high price – over half a million rand per treatment course in the private

The Competition Commission probe announced today will investigate the price
of cancer medicines of three pharmaceutical companies. One of these
companies is Roche Holdings AG, which will be investigated for the
excessive pricing of trastuzumab (the medicine Tobeka never had the chance
to try). The investigation specifically relates to “excessive pricing”,
“exclusionary conduct”, and “price discrimination”. While Tobeka was unable
to access this medicine, Roche made USD 8.9 billion profit in 2015.

The Commission will also investigate local pharmaceutical company Aspen
Pharmacare for alleged “abuse of dominance”. Reports in April this year
indicated that the Spanish Markets and Competition Commission initiated
anti-trust proceedings against Aspen. In October 2016, Aspen was fined over EUR
5 million by the Italian Competition Authority for having abused its
dominant position by increasing prices of four of its anti-cancer medicines
by up to 1,500%.

The Commission also initiated an investigation against pharmaceutical
company Pfizer Inc. for “suspected excessive pricing of lung cancer

We are encouraged by the Commission’s undertaking to investigate
manufacturers of excessively priced cancer medicines. We will be monitoring
the Commission’s progress for the duration of these investigations. We are
committed to assisting the Commission in their investigation and to ensure
that cancer survivors and people who have lost loved ones to cancer have a
place at the table. These investigations give hope that more people living
with cancer will in future be able to access the medicines that will give
them a chance at life.

*For more information and to arrange interviews contact:*

Luvo Nelani | nelani at section27.org.za | 079 381 8521

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition was founded in November 2011 by the
Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors without Borders (MSF) and
SECTION27. Today the coalition has 34 member organisations – including the
Cancer Alliance and its various member groups working on cancer-related
issues. The coalition has for several years now called on the Department of
Trade and Industry to finalise a policy on intellectual property that would
ensure that the right to access healthcare is prioritised over the private
interests of pharmaceutical companies – as required by the Constitution of
South Africa. You can read more about the campaign at
www.FixThePatentLaws.org <http://www.fixthepatentlaws.org/>

In South Africa, the annual price charged by Roche for trastuzumab in the
private sector is around USD 38 365 (ZAR 516,700). The few public
facilities which can access trastuzumab do so at a lower price of around
USD 15 735 (ZAR 211,920) per year. But, health economists have shown that a
year’s worth of trastuzumab can be produced and sold for only USD 240, a
price that includes a 50% increase above the cost of production for profit.

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

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