Aspen fined R73.7m by Ital­ian com­pe­ti­tion body

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Roy Cokayne

JSE-listed phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Aspen, which is be­ing probed by the South African Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion, will have to pay a €5.2 mil­lion (R73.7m) fine plus in­ter­est, im­posed by the Ital­ian Com­pe­ti­tion Au­thor­ity (ICA) re­lated to the com­pany’s port­fo­lio of on­col­ogy prod­ucts dis­trib­uted in Italy.

Aspen said yes­ter­day it had been in­formed that the Ital­ian court had dis­missed its ap­peal against the ICA rul­ing.

Aspen said it was wait­ing for the re­lease of the full rea­sons for this judg­ment and the Ital­ian court’s as­sess­ment of the un­der­ly­ing facts, in­clud­ing that the price for most of the rel­e­vant Aspen drugs in Italy had not been in­creased for be­tween 40 and 60 years, and that a generic ver­sion of one of the Aspen drugs in ques­tion had re­cently been ap­proved in Italy, with a list price of more than dou­ble that of the Aspen drug on an equiv­a­lent dose ba­sis.

“Aspen will en­gage its ad­vis­ers and con­sider the mat­ter fur­ther against re­ceipt of those rea­sons, in­clud­ing Aspen’s au­to­matic right to lodge a fur­ther ap­peal to the Coun­cil of State ap­peal court,” it said.

The South African Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion on Tues­day launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into three ma­jor phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies for al­legedly fix­ing the prices of can­cer med­i­ca­tion.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion fol­lowed sus­pected col­lu­sion by Aspen, Pfizer and Roche over

the prices they were charg­ing for can­cer drugs.

Com­ment­ing on the com­mis­sion’s an­nounce­ment, Aspen said phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prices in South Africa were ap­proved by the Depart­ment of Health in terms of the Sin­gle Exit Price (SEP) Reg­u­la­tory Frame­work, which es­tab­lished a univer­sal fixed price for each phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­uct.

Aspen said it had not in­creased the pric­ing of its prod­ucts out­side of this reg­u­la­tory frame­work and had clearly demon­strated its com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing af­ford­able qual­ity medicines over many years, in­clud­ing the sup­ply of the on­col­ogy prod­ucts.

The com­pany said that to date it had not had any en­gage­ment with the com­mis­sion on these is­sues and wel­comed the op­por­tu­nity to meet and clar­ify cer­tain key is­sues on the prod­ucts listed by the com­mis­sion in its an­nounce­ment.

The is­sues in­cluded that these prod­ucts were all post-pa­tent and had been for some time now; there were no ob­vi­ous bar­ri­ers pre­vent­ing generic en­try for these prod­ucts; and de­spite the lack of generic com­pe­ti­tion on these prod­ucts, Aspen had never in­creased the price for the prod­ucts in South Africa be­yond the al­low­able SEP in­creases.

It added that in­vari­ably the lack of generic en­try to a coun­try was ei­ther at­trib­ut­able to the sub-eco­nom­i­cal pric­ing of the branded prod­ucts and/or an unattrac­tive mar­ket size.

“Aspen hopes to demon­strate, through its ac­tive en­gage­ment with the com­mis­sion and other af­fected stake­hold­ers, its on­go­ing com­mit­ment to sup­ply­ing the South African mar­ket with qual­ity af­ford­able medicines for which it is renowned.

“While Aspen ac­knowl­edges the vi­tal na­ture of the four on­col­ogy prod­ucts listed in the com­mis­sion’s an­nounce­ment, these prod­ucts have a col­lec­tive turnover of about R3m in the South African pri­vate mar­ket,” the com­pany said.

PHOTO SUP­PLIED

The SA Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion is prob­ing price-fix­ing on can­cer drugs.

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