DA wants probe into allegations of anti-competitive practices at Aspen Pharmacare

APRIL 19, 2017
DA wants probe into allegations of anti-competitive practices at Aspen Pharmacare

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday that it would write to the Competition Commission (CC) and the Medicines Control Council (MCC), as the body responsible for the regulation of the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa, to request that they investigate the market conduct of leading South African pharmaceutical company, Aspen Pharmacare.

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

"Recent reports in the United Kingdom and South Africa detailed how staff at Aspen Pharmacare allegedly plotted to dispose of life-saving cancer medication in order to drive up their price across Europe," said 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 World Bank has already highlighted that the South African pharmaceutical industry is controlled by cartels and operates in an uncompetitive manner, which would have the effect of increasing the cost of medication for South Africans," said Dr James.

"Given the reports about how the cost of cancer drugs in Europe have been inflated, an investigation by the CC and the MCC must, therefore, look into whether the same tactics are being used in our own country. It appears to be an effort to manipulate the market for drugs that effectively will put them out of reach for many if not most."

He said that the DA will also seek clarity from the CC as to whether they are currently investigating the South African pharmaceutical industry for uncompetitive behaviour and if so, to make public the findings thereof.

"Access to medicines is a very important principle of health justice, and it is unacceptable that ill patients are exploited for financial gains by big companies.

"These are serious allegations about the business ethics of a reputable and proudly South African company and must be investigated immediately," said Dr James.

"The wellbeing and health of our people must be prioritised. The DA will not stand by if vulnerable South Africans are forced to pay more than they need to for medication."