As if Cancer patients do not have a difficult enough time fighting this destructive disease, Pharmaceutical Companies in South Africa are now being investigated for excessive pricing of cancer medication.
Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele from the Competition Commission announced last week at a briefing at the Department of Trade and Industry headquarters in Pretoria on Tuesday, that an investigation is to be initiated against oncology medicine provider Roche Holding AG, which includes its US-based biotechnology company Genentech Incorporated.
“The matter is of grave national importance,” said Bonakele.
He explained that anti-competitive behaviour the healthcare sector, particularly pharmaceuticals could have a negative impact on consumers, specifically the poor and vulnerable.
The commission believes the company has engaged in excessive pricing, price discrimination and exclusionary conduct in the provision of breast cancer medicine in South Africa.
The commission says it has reason to believe that pharmaceutical companies Aspen, Roche and Pfizer are involved in alleged excessive pricing of these lifesaving drugs.
The commission will also investigate Pfizer, for suspected excessive pricing of lung cancer medication in South Africa.
Aspen Pharmacare is also to be probed for excessive pricing. The commission believes Aspen has abused its dominance in the sector by charging excessive prices for lifesaving cancer medication in South Africa, said Bonakele.
The commission plans to obtain evidence from patients.
“We have to treat this with the urgency and sensitivity it deserves, there are still many patients in need of these drugs,” said Bonakele.
“We have to look at patents and how they get abused. A perpetual monopoly aided by patents is unlawful,” he said.
This follows a previous report by Fin24 that Aspen is under preliminary investigation for alleged excessive pricing.
In a statement the pharmaceutical company indicated it would cooperate with the commission. Aspen explained that all prices are approved by the Department of Health in terms of the Single Exit Price regulatory framework. At the time Aspen affirmed that price increases were made within this framework.
Aspen is undergoing a legal process with European regulators over allegations that the company secretly planned to destroy life-saving cancer medication European countries to allow price hikes, Fin24 reported.
Given the excessive pricing of products in Europe, the Commission is of the view that similar practices are followed for similar products available in South Africa. “The commission has reasonable grounds to suspect that Aspen may be engaging in similar conduct locally,” said Bonakele.
DISCUSSION: Competition Commission Probes High Cancer Drug Pricing
Published on Jun 13, 2017
Yesterday the Competition Commission announced that it is opening an investigation on pharmaceutical companies, Roche Holdings, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Aspen Pharmacare for alleged excessive cancer drug pricing. In May 2017 the European Union also opened a formal investigation into concerns that Aspen Pharma has engaged in excessive pricing concerning five life-saving cancer medicines.
As the Competition Commission investigates the pricing of certain cancer medications in South Africa, cancer patients and relatives have told Eyewitness News of their frustration, knowing that the drugs can save lives but are simply unaffordable.
Matlabo Rankhododo’s 37-year-old sister was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.
She says her family simply can’t afford the medication that could save her life.
“I just wish that this commissioning can happen soon, while she is still here and get the opportunity to get this medication.”
A woman who suffers from ovarian cancer says she’s struggling to pay the more than R10 000 her treatment costs every month.
“I am fortunate that I am on medical aid, but I think that for this one injection is absolutely astronomical.”
The Cancer Alliance has lobbied around the exorbitant pricing of medicines:
Xolani Gwala spoke to the Alliance’s Salome Meye:
“Not even the department of health can afford paying R 125 000 as oppose to R 500 000 for public patients.
We know the cost of manufacturing the drugs is half of what they are offering the department of health for the same drug, one really needs to ask who is making the money and who is benefiting, certainly not the patients in the public or private sector.
We also have knowledge of other drugs and other companies that we will take to the competition commission to investigate.”
Click on the pic below to listen to the full audio…
Breakfast with Xolani Gwala
Both cancer patients as well as cancer organisations have urged the Commission to urgently investigate alleged price-fixing in the sector, and to conclude its investigation as soon as possible as many people are in desperate need.