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Commission investigates whether #Aspen has abused a dominant market position with life-saving #cancer drugs

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The European Commission has opened a formal investigation into concerns that Aspen Pharma has engaged in excessive pricing concerning five life-saving cancer medicines. The Commission will investigate whether Aspen has abused a dominant market position in breach of EU antitrust rules.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "When we get sick, we may depend on specific drugs to save or prolong our lives. Companies should be rewarded for producing these pharmaceuticals to ensure that they keep making them into the future. But when the price of a drug suddenly goes up by several hundred percent, this is something the Commission may look at. More specifically, in this case we will be assessing whether Aspen is breaking EU competition rules by charging excessive prices for a number of medicines."

The investigation concerns Aspen's pricing practices for niche medicines containing the active pharmaceutical ingredients chlorambucil, melphalan, mercaptopurine, tioguanine and busulfan. The medicines in question are used for treating cancer, such as hematologic tumours. They are sold with different formulations and under multiple brand names. Aspen acquired these medicines after their patent protection had expired.

The Commission will investigate information indicating that Aspen has imposed very significant and unjustified price increases of up to several hundred percent, so-called 'price gouging'. The Commission has information that, for example, to impose such price increases, Aspen has threatened to withdraw the medicines in question in some Member States and has actually done so in certain cases.

Aspen's behaviour may be in breach of the EU's antitrust rules (Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 54 of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, which forbid the imposition of unfair prices or unfair trading conditions on customers.

The investigation covers all of the EEA except Italy, where the Italian competition authority already adopted an infringement decision against Aspen on 29 September 2016.

This is the Commission's first investigation into concerns about excessive pricing practices in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Commission will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. The opening of formal proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Background

Aspen is a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in South Africa. Aspen has several subsidiaries in the EEA.

In the EU, national authorities are free to adopt pricing rules for medicines and to decide on treatments they wish to reimburse under their social security systems. Each country has different pharmaceutical pricing and reimbursement policies, adapted to its own economic and health needs. The pricing of original medicines that are protected by patents is highly regulated. For off-patent medicines, member states may directly influence prices of generic entrants, but also encourage competition to achieve lower prices. As a result, prices generally fall significantly when a medicine goes off-patent. However, in the present investigation the Commission has indications of significant price increases for off-patent medicines.

Article 102 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU prohibits the abuse of dominant market positions. The implementation of these provisions is defined in the EU's Antitrust Regulation (Council Regulation No 1/2003), which is also applied by national competition authorities.

Article 11(6) of the Antitrust Regulation provides that the initiation of proceedings by the Commission relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their competence to also apply EU competition rules to the practices concerned. Article 16(1) of the same Regulation provides that national courts must avoid giving decisions which would conflict with a decision contemplated by the Commission in proceedings it has initiated.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct. The duration of an antitrust investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the extent to which the undertaking concerned cooperates with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

More information on the investigation will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number 40394.

Africa

EU and Germany join efforts to support the African Union's response to #Coronavirus

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The EU continues to work with member states to tackle the coronavirus pandemic on all fronts. Today, 500.000 additional coronavirus testing kits have been provided to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The test kits were delivered by an EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flight and are part of a €10 million immediate support package to the African Union (AU) by the German Government in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In total, almost 1.4 million tests for the extraction and the detection of the virus will be made available to African Union countries. 

“Through the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge, the European Commission continues to work hand in hand with Member States to support vulnerable countries amidst the coronavirus pandemic. It is in our common interest to tackle the pandemic worldwide. We are committed to ensuring effective delivery of essential medical equipment to the countries that need it the most. This specific consignment will be able to reach a large number of countries as it will support the African Union continental response,” said Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič.

The kits delivery is part of the larger Team Europe support to the African continental response to the coronavirus. Federal Republic of Germany Development Co-operation Minister Gerd Müller said on the occasion: “We will either beat the coronavirus together worldwide – or not at all. This is why we support the African Union through the German Epidemic Preparedness Team in co-operation with the EU. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention co-ordinate the procurement of life-saving testing equipment for AU member states. They also play an important role in educating African health workers. With our support to the partnership to accelerate coronavirus testing, we make sure that testing is made widely available. We stand by our friends in Africa in the fight against the coronavirus.”

The full press release is available online.

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Founder of leading pan-African communications consultancy APO Group to help select Jack Ma Foundation’s Top 10 finalists of Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition

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The Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) has chosen APO Group Founder and Chairman Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard as a semi-final judge for this year’s prestigious competition “Africa’s Business Heroes”.

The ANPI organizes Africa’s Business Heroes - now in its second year – a grassroots competition looking to spotlight and give a platform to entrepreneurs all over Africa, to showcase their business ideas and inspire others to do so.

The Jack Ma Foundation is committed to fostering African entrepreneurship, and has brought in some of the continent’s most esteemed business people and investors to help the search for Africa’s Business Heroes. Nicolas will be part of a select seven-judge panel who will interview candidates from a semi-final shortlist of 20 entrepreneurs based all over Africa.

In earlier qualification rounds, more than 150 prominent African business leaders acted as initial judges to whittle down more than 20,000 applicants to the final 50.

In the online semi-final, held on 28 and 29 August 2020, Nicolas will help to identify the ten finalists who will go forward to compete in a ‘pitch finale’ in front of Jack Ma himself, among others.

Nicolas has spent more than a decade at the forefront of African business. In 2007, he founded APO Group from his own living room using his own savings, and he has seen it grow into the leading pan-African communications and business consultancy, providing strategic advice to multinational organizations in diverse industries.

Now, in his role as Chairman of APO Group, Nicolas has committed to supporting the next generation of African entrepreneurs. In 2019, he embarked upon a series of conferences in some of Africa’s most prominent universities. He spoke about entrepreneurship, business and journalism to students in Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Ethiopia, and South Africa.

Nicolas is also a member of several Advisory Boards, including: the African Energy Chamber, an organization that drives collaboration between African governments and the private sector in all areas of the energy industry; the Africa Hotel Investment Forum, the premier hotel investment conference in Africa; and the EurAfrican Forum, an action-oriented platform that aims to foster stronger collaboration between Europe and Africa.

The ANPI prize launched last year, and the competition in 2020 is even bigger and better. The prize fund has increased from $1 million to $1.5m, with each of the ten finalists receiving a share of it. The value of the Prize goes far beyond mere financial gain, and represents an extraordinary platform where all participants, and not just the winners, have benefited from expertise and insights garnered within the ANPI community of business leaders.

More than 22,000 applicants representing all 54 African countries applied for the chance to be the next African Business Hero - more than double the number of entries in 2019.

In another change from last year, applicants were also able to submit their applications and hold selection interviews in French, a further proof of the inclusive and pan-African spirit of the initiative. As a self-made Franco-Gabonese entrepreneur, Nicolas is well placed to help identify the very best of Francophone African start-ups and innovators.

“Jack Ma is at the very pinnacle of global entrepreneurship, so it is an honour to have been asked to judge this year’s semi-final of the ANPI competition,” said Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and Chairman of APO Group. “It is fantastic to see the Jack Ma Foundation investing so much energy into African entrepreneurship, and I am delighted to see such a high level of talent from this year’s applicants as we get ready to crown the next African Business Heroes.”

Find out more about the ANPI competition and view the full list of semi-finalists here.

View multimedia content.

 

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New details released about the change of head of the Russian 'Wagner' group

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A recent journalistic investigation by Bellingcat reports about the change of the head of the Wagner Private Military Group. This joint investigation by The Insider, Bellingcat and Der Spiegel notes that the new head of the group may be Konstantin Pikalov, better known as 'Mazay', writes Louis Auge.

According to media reports, Mazay participated in the campaign of the group in the Central African Republic (CAR) in early July 2018. From the context of correspondence extracted by journalists of the publication, which concerns his activities in Africa, it becomes clear how influential Mazay is - it is reported that the military adviser to the Central African President personally followed his recommendations.

The media suggest that he was the one who co-ordinated the information and ideological work with the team in the Central African Republic.

Documents obtained by Bellingcat in electronic correspondence show that if Valery Zakharov was formally a military advisor to the CAR President, then Mazay was responsible for important military issues.

For example, one email contains a scanned letter from the local provisional authorities in the town of Bambari to the Commander of the Russian Armed Forces in the Republic of South Africa.

The letter (dated 13 May 2019) requested an urgent and private meeting to "discuss a particularly delicate situation in the town of Bambari". The letters mention that the Russian military command has sent instructions to Mazay for further action.

The change of the Wagner leadership, according to some experts, may be associated with a change in the format of group.

Dmitry Utkin, who previously headed the company and was responsible for the Ukrainian and Syrian fronts, may have left the group due to changes in the methodology and vector of work.

The private military company has moved from direct participation in military operations to the strategy of military and political training and interaction. According to sources, instead of participating in hostilities, the Wagner group is currently providing consulting and training support in a number of geopolitical hot spots in African countries, including Libya.

The change of the head of the company may be explained by a change in the regional orientation of the company as well. It means increased attention by the group to the African region, in this configuration the change of manager seems reasonable.

Based on an analysis of the information revealed this investigation, one can also draw a possible conclusion that Dmitry Utkin, who led the private military company for a long time, may now have been be killed. At present, his phone number is not functioning, and his regular trips from Krasnodar to St. Petersburg have stopped.

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