JOHANNESBURG - Aspen yesterday welcomed the Competition Commission's decision to drop the excessive pricing investigations against it and agent Equity. 

The commission yesterday halted its probe, charging that it could not sustain a case of excessive pricing against it.

However, it said its investigations into Roche, US-based technology company Genentech and Pfizer were continuing. Aspen chief executive Stephen Saad said the decision to investigate was expeditious and co-operative.

The decision follows the commission’s initiation of investigations against Aspen, Roche, Genentech, Pfizer and Equity in June for suspected abuse of dominance and excessive pricing in the provision of specific cancer medicines in South Africa. When the commission announced the probe, Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said the anti-graft agency had identified the health-care 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”.

Yesterday, the commission said the Aspen probe revealed that the revenue attributable to Myleran, Alkeran and Leukeran was low as the products were at the end of their lifespans. “In respect of Equity, the investigation revealed that the drug, Xalkori Crizotinib, is not yet registered in South Africa. It was imported once with the permission of the Medicines Control Council. The high price charged by Equity was as a result of high cost incurred in importing the product from Germany,” the commission said.

“It is, therefore, unlikely that the price charged by Equity could pass the test for excessive pricing.” The commission, however, alleged that Roche and Genentech had engaged in excessive pricing, price discrimination and exclusionary conduct in the provision of breast cancer medicine in South Africa, adding that breast cancer treatment was unaffordable in South Africa.

The commission said investigations on Pfizer for excessive pricing of lung cancer medication in South Africa would continue. The drug maker was the only provider of a lung cancer treatment medication, known asXalkori (crizotinib), in South Africa. The body also alleged that lung cancer treatment in South Africa was unaffordable.

Aspen shares fell 0.01 percent on the JSE yesterday to close at R304.75 a share.

- BUSINESS REPORT