The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Wednesday 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.
This comes as a response to 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 their price across Europe.
The London-based Times newspaper reported allegations that this campaign had seen prices of life-saving cancer treatment inflated by more than 1,000 percent.
“The price rises meant that the cost of Busulfan, used by leukaemia patients, rose from £5.20 to £65.22 a pack in England and Wales during 2013, an increase of more than 1,100 percent. The prices of chlorambucil, also used to treat blood cancer, rose from £8.36 to £40.51 a pack in the same year.”
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.
James also said the DA would seek clarity from the Competition Commission as to whether they were currently investigating the South African pharmaceutical industry for uncompetitive behaviour and, if so, to make public the findings thereof.
“Access to medicines is a very important principle of health justice, and it is unacceptable that ill patients are exploited for financial gains by big companies,” James said.
“The wellbeing and health of our people must be prioritised. The DA will not stand by if vulnerable South Africans are forced to pay more than they need to for medication.”