South Africa watchdog drops over-charging probe into Aspen, Equity

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s competition watchdog has dropped an investigation into Aspen Pharmacare and Equity Pharmaceutical, saying a case against them for over-charging for cancer medicines “cannot be sustained.”

In June, the Competition Commission said it would investigate Aspen, U.S. company Pfizer, Swiss-based Roche Holding and its subsidiary Genentech, and Equity, a division of Clinigen South Africa, for suspected excessive pricing in the provision of specific cancer medicines in the country.

“Based on the information gathered to date, the Commission has decided to drop the investigation against Aspen and Equity because an excessive pricing case cannot be sustained against them,” the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

“In addition, in respect of Aspen, the investigation revealed that the revenues attributable to Myleran, Alkeran and Leukeran are very low as they were at the end of their lifespans,” it said, referring to three cancer treatments.

Aspen and Equity welcomed the Commission’s decision to drop the investigation.

For Equity, the probe found the drug Xalkori Crizotinib was not yet registered in South Africa and was therefore imported, the Commission said, which led to a higher charge for the drug due to import costs from Germany.

“It is, therefore, unlikely that the price charged by Equity could pass the test for excessive pricing,” the Commission said.

The Commission, which investigates cases before bringing them to the Competition Tribunal for adjudication, will continue to investigate the complaints against Roche, Genentech and Pfizer. Pfizer has denied any wrongdoing and Roche said in June it would cooperate fully with the authorities.

Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Mark Potter and Alexander Smith

October 4, 2017
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