Pharmaceutical giant Aspen is alleged to have withheld stockpiles of vital cancer drugs to raise prices. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg – Pharma giant Aspen says it welcomes a potential probe into alleged ant-competitive behaviour.

This comes after the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, last Wednesday said it would write to the Competition Commission and the Medicines Control Council (MCC) to request that they investigate the market conduct of Aspen Pharmacare, the leading South African pharmaceutical company.

That call came after reports in the United Kingdom and South Africa detailing how staff at Aspen Pharmacare allegedly plotted to dispose of life-saving cancer medication in order to drive up its price across Europe.

The London-based Times newspaper reported allegations that this campaign has seen prices of life-saving cancer treatment inflated by more than 1 000 percent.

In a statement issued on Monday, Aspen said it welcomed the “process and the opportunity to categorically set aside such allegations of anti-competitive behaviour”.

The company notes it is “committed to full and constructive engagement with the Competition Commission should it wish to pursue such an investigation”.

Aspen, listed on the JSE, adds pharmaceutical prices are approved by the Department of Health in terms of the Single Exit Price regulatory framework, which establishes a universal fixed price for each pharmaceutical product.

“Aspen has not increased pricing of its products outside of this regulatory framework.”

Read also: DA wants probe into Aspen anti-competitive allegations

Last week, DA spokesperson on health, Wilmot James, said the World Bank had already highlighted that the South African pharmaceutical industry was controlled by cartels and operated in an uncompetitive manner, which would have the effect of increasing the cost of medication.

"Given the reports about how the cost of cancer drugs in Europe have been inflated, an investigation by the Competition Commission and the Medicines Control Council must, therefore, look into whether the same tactics are being used in our own country," James said in a statement.

"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."

The Medicines Control Council is the body responsible for the regulation of the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa.