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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Do pharmaceutical wholesalers increase drug prices by exchanging information?

23.11.2020

Do pharmaceutical wholesalers increase drug prices by exchanging information?
  • Could unfair market practices, resulting in higher drug prices and restriction of competition, be facilitated by the IT systems used by pharmaceutical wholesalers?
  • President of UOKiK Tomasz Chróstny has initiated explanatory proceedings in the case, and Office officials conducted searches at the premises of six companies.

In September 2020, UOKiK officials assisted by the Police carried out inspections and searches at the premises of six entrepreneurs - at pharmaceutical wholesalers and at suppliers of IT software for pharmaceutical sector entities. According to the Office's information, pharmaceutical wholesalers may have reached an agreement, prohibited by competition law, consisting in the exchange of commercial information, including the prices of medications. It might have taken place through special software used by wholesalers, by means of which pharmaceutical wholesalers could have verified prices applied by their competitors. Reciprocal knowledge of applied prices may be used to raise the prices of drugs and fix them at one particular level, restricting competition between entrepreneurs.

- Anti-competitive practices in the pharmaceutical market are particularly reprehensible. They result in increased drug prices, including for particularly sensitive consumers, i.e. seniors. We have received signals about possible illegal activities of pharmaceutical wholesalers, which may result in restriction of competition on the pharmaceutical market and, consequently, higher prices of drugs available on pharmacies' shelves. I have decided to instigate an explanatory proceeding and to conduct searches and inspections at the companies' premises in order to fully verify the signals received. If the evidence confirms our suspicions, we will use all available tools to eradicate unfair practices from the pharmaceutical market, causing severe consequences also for consumers – says President of UOKiK Tomasz Chróstny.

Entrepreneurs who could exchange confidential information and at the headquarters of which searches took place are:

  • Neuca Spółka Akcyjna from Toruń.
  • Przedsiębiorstwo Dystrybucji Farmaceutycznej Slawex Sp. z o.o. from Lublin.
  • Farmacol Serwis S.A. from Katowice.
  • Farmacol Logistyka Sp. z o.o. from Katowice.

At the same time, UOKiK carried out inspections at suppliers of IT software that could be used to exchange information. In the case of these companies, the office checks whether the software they provide could be used for the purposes of a prohibited agreement, including information on drug prices applied by competitors. They are: Kamsoft SA from Katowice and SoftForYou from Warsaw.

The practices suspected by the Office may violate both national and EU legislation. The explanatory proceedings are conducted in the case, not against specific enterprises. If the evidence gathered confirms the suspicions, the President of the Office will initiate antitrust proceedings and will charge individual entities. An undertaking involved in an agreement restricting competition may be imposed with a fine of up to 10 percent of sales. The managers responsible for concluding the collusion by the entrepreneur, in turn, are threatened with a fine of up to PLN 2 million.

If you have knowledge of potential infringements on the pharmaceutical market or have information about this particular or similar case, please contact UOKiK. The Office runs a programme of acquiring information from anonymous whistle-blowers. Visit https://konkurencja.uokik.gov.pl/sygnalista/ and fill out a simple form. The system we use guarantees full anonymity, also towards the office itself.

We would also like to remind that the leniency programme offers the undertaking involved in an illegal agreement and the managers responsible for the collusion an opportunity to avoid a fine or have it reduced. It is applicable to those who agree to cooperate with UOKiK as a “crown witness” and provide evidence or information on the illegal agreement. We encourage entrepreneurs and managers interested in the leniency programme to contact UOKiK. By calling a dedicated number: 22 55 60 555, you will be able to talk to UOKiK lawyers, who will answer all of your questions, also anonymous ones, related to leniency applications.

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warszawa, Poland
Phone +48 695 902 088, +48 22 55 60 246
E-mail: biuroprasowe@uokik.gov.pl
Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

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