DA and Aspen welcome probe into alleged anti-competitive practices at the company

APRIL 24, 2017
DA and Aspen welcome probe into alleged anti-competitive practices at the company

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Sunday welcomed the Competition Commission’s (CC) decision to take up its request to investigate the alleged anti-competitive conduct of Aspen Pharmacare, on its preliminary investigation into the pharmaceutical sector.

Aspen Pharmacare operates its primary manufacturing site in North End, Port Elizabeth, and a secondary facility in East London.

"Media reports last week both locally and internationally, detailed how staff at Aspen Pharmacare allegedly conspired to dispose of life-saving cancer medicine in order to boost their price across Europe," described Dr Wilmot James MP - the DA's Shadow Minister of Health.

According to the London-based Times, ‘The price rises meant that the cost of Busulfan, used by leukaemia patients, rose from £5.20 to £65.22 a pack in England and Wales during 2013, an increase of more than 1,100 per cent. The prices of chlorambucil, also used to treat blood cancer, rose from £8.36 to £40.51 a pack in the same year.

"The DA is concerned that the same practices may have been employed here in South Africa and therefore believe it is important that any possible anti-competitive behaviour, which would push up the price of medication for our people, must be fully investigated," said Dr James.

"If these allegations are true and seriously ill patients have been exploited for financial gains, those responsible must be held accountable."

He said that the DA believes that this preliminary investigation is the first step in combatting the unethical practice of exploiting sick patients.

In a statement, Aspen said that it welcomes the process and "the opportunity to categorically set aside such allegations of anti-competitive behavior". 

"Aspen is committed to full and constructive engagement with the Competition Commission should it wish to pursue such an investigation," the company said.

"It is worth noting that pharmaceutical prices are approved by the Department of Health in terms of the Single Exit Price regulatory framework which establishes a universal fixed price for each pharmaceutical product.  Aspen has not increased pricing of its products outside of this regulatory framework."