Roche comes under fire for excessive pricing of cancer drug

Swiss-based Roche referred to the Competition Tribunal for hefty fine for pricing of breast cancer drug.

Roche has come under fire from South African authorities for excessive pricing of its breast cancer drug named Trastuzumab. The matter has led to the country’s Competition Commission referring it to the Tribunal for prosecution. In a media release, the Commission highlights that its referral “also alleges that the excessive price of Trastuzumab constitutes a violation of basic human rights including the right of access to healthcare enshrined in the Bill of Rights as it denies access to life saving medicine for women living with breast cancer”. According to the Commission, tens of thousands of women have been denied live-saving treatment as a result of the drug’s unaffordable price tag. It further alleges that the said excessive pricing took place in both the private and public sectors.

The drug is a first line treatment life-saving drug that prevents the development of an aggressive type of breast cancer called Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 Positive breast cancer. It is used to stop the development of these tumour cells to prevent the cancer from spreading and death. Locally, the drug is sold under the Herceptin brand name in the private healthcare sector, and as Herclon in the public healthcare sector. While the decision is likely to be welcomed by thousands of patients, it is also expected to be frowned up by the pharmaceutical industry given the implications this could have on pricing models. Per its recommendation, the commission would like the Tribunal to fine Roche 10% of its annual turnover for the period between 2011 and 2019.