22-12-2020 | 18:41

On December 17, 2020, a session in the format of BRICS+ “Competition issues in the markets of medicines and medical devices during the pandemic” was held within the framework of the VI International scientific and practical Conference “Antimonopoly Policy: Science, Practice, Education”

Moderator of the session Timofey Nizhegorodtsev, Deputy Head of the FAS Russia, suggested discussing the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on pharmaceutical markets, as well as sharing information with the BRICS antimonopoly authorities on whether they have detected cases of violations of antimonopoly law during the pandemic. At the event, participants also discussed whether the authorities of the countries have made any temporary changes to the competition law for pharmaceutical markets in connection with the pandemic.

“There must come a time when we need to seriously reflect on all the experience gained. In particular, the conditions of circulation of goods in the markets, especially in the pharmaceutical and medical device markets. Now we should start talking about these topics, openly evaluate and propose mechanisms that would stop the disintegration of the common drug markets and the strengthening of protectionist measures,” Timofey Nizhegorodtsev said.

Alexey Ivanov, Director of the HSE-Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development and Director of the International BRICS Competition Law and Policy Center, made a report at the beginning of the event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the non-viability of a multilateral system of cooperation for more efficient distribution of medicines, vaccines and protective equipment, although the world community has such opportunities: let’s remember the GISRS, a multilateral platform for monitoring influenza under the auspices of the WHO in the 1970s. In a situation where states are turning to unilateral measures to protect their health systems (export restrictions, compulsory licensing, emergency registration of drugs, off-label use, etc.), stepping up work on the adoption of a draft law on compulsory licensing in Russia is a major step towards to the stability of our health care system in a crisis. By adopting the law on compulsory licensing right now, Russia not only follows the global trend, but also fully complies with its international obligations under the TRIPS Agreement, backed up by the 2001 Doha Declaration.”

Andrey Tenishev, Head of the Anti-Cartel Department spoke about the cartelization of the pharmaceutical sphere in the Russian Federation and gave statistics on cartels and other anti-competitive agreements.

“All over the world, pharmaceutical markets are subject to cartelization, and Russian Pharma is not exclusion. In the first half of 2020, we saw an increase in detected collusions in this market by 8.6% compared to the same period in 2019. However, according to the results of the year, we can already speak of a general decline in cartel activity - by 46% in general and by 23% in the pharmaceutical sphere,” Andrey Tenishev said.

Such results were achieved due to both objective economic reasons, including an increase in the production of medical devices, solving problems with supplies, and the actions we take. During this difficult period, we tried to act with the full range of powers available to us, focusing on preventive control,” he added.

Björn Lundqvist, Associate Professor of Competition Law at University of Stockholm, expert of the International BRICS Competition Law and Policy Center, spoke about a study that touches on the acquisition of smaller ones by large pharmaceutical companies and affects their scientific development in relation to promising drugs.

According to the speaker, their study shows that the merger of companies leads to a decrease in study activity or even its termination. Getting control of the business, large pharmaceutical companies “curtail” the study programs of their former competitors.

Björn Landqvist sees the solution to this problem in strengthening control by the antimonopoly authority and issuing permits for such mergers on conditions that do not prevent the continuation of research developments.

Jin Jing, Expert of the Antimonopoly Bureau, SAMR of the People's Republic of China, reported on the challenges faced by the Chinese competition authority in connection with COVID-19. The main ones are a large number of complaints from consumers, the cartelization of pharmaceutical markets, and the difficulty of conducting investigations due to the imposed quarantine. The pandemic has also had a negative impact on the SME sector.

Andrea Minuto Rizzo,Head of the International Department of the Italian Competition Authority spoke about the problems of competition in the markets of medicines and medical products during the pandemic.

“Antimonopoly authorities should not seek to control prices, but should try to protect consumers from exploitation within their powers,” Andrea Minuto Rizzo said.

Mapato Ramakgopa, Acting Divisional Manager in the Office of the Commissioner of the Competition Commission of South Africa spoke about the role of competition policy in access to health services and essential medicines. She noted that general access to health services and essential medicines in South Africa are hampering by several factors.

One of the ways out of this situation for many countries can be the creation of common markets and reliable rules in which companies will feel better, will be able to cooperate productive and research forces, and thus reduce the negative impact of the pandemic on the functioning of national economies.Today each country shared its experiences. Almost everyone said that, within a reasonable limit they reduced the administrative requirements for the functioning of pharmaceutical markets. It makes sense to keep and use on a permanent basis those measures that were taken in the context of the pandemic and created additional benefits for the economy, companies and people in the form of an appropriate volume of medicines and appropriate prices,” Timofey Nizhegorodtsev concluded.

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