By BO Staff Writer
The Competition Commission has cracked down on three pharmaceutical companies for price fixing relating to the cancer treatment prices.
The Commission has initiated separate investigations against Roche Holding AG (Roche), Pfizer Inc (Pfizer) and Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd (Aspen).
Roche is a Swiss-owned company which is the second largest pharmaceutical company listed in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), while American owned Pfizer is the third largest. Aspen is the largest drug producer in Africa and has its roots in South African colonialism.
Roche is being investigated for the pricing of breast cancer medicine, Pfizer for lung cancer medication and Aspen for suspected abuse of dominance in charging excessive prices for cancer medicines.
Relating to Roche, the private sector watchdog said, “[the commission] has reason to believe that Roche and its USA-based biotechnology company, Genentech Inc. (Genentech) have and continue to engage in excessive pricing, price discrimination and/or exclusionary conduct in the provision of breast cancer medicine in South Africa.”
“Breast cancer treatment is unaffordable in South Africa and many medical aid schemes refuse to pay for the treatment based on cost. For example, a 12-month course of Herceptin in the private sector costs over R500 000, or more, if a higher dosage is required. As a result of exorbitant prices, most breast cancer patients in both the private and public sectors are unable to get treatment,” the commission said.
The commission said it is also investigating Pfizer for exorbitant pricing of lung cancer treatment. “Pfizer is the only provider of a lung cancer treatment medication known as xalkori crizotinib in South Africa,” the commission said. “The Commission has information that suggests lung cancer treatment is unaffordable in South Africa and medical aid schemes refuse to pay for the treatment.”
The commission also said it is investigating Aspen for suspicion of overpricing on treatments of Leukemia, bone marrow cancer and epithelial ovarian cancer, amongst others.
Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said “The 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.”
He added that “the three investigations have been prioritised and all relevant resources are in place to ensure the investigation is concluded soonest. The matter is of grave national concern.”
Asked to comment about the extent of corruption of white owned companies – going as far as overpricing cancer medications – black consciousness movement, Black First Land First (BLF) leader, Andile Mngxitama said, “BLF is vindicated in its assertion that white monopoly capital is evil to the core. White monopoly capital is the enemy of black liberation and the one evil force all of us must be pitted against.”
Read the full competition commission statement below: