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Belgian consumer association announces potential complaint for abuse of dominance based on excessive pricing allegations

Last week, a spokesperson for the Belgian consumer association Test Aankoop/Test Achats announced that the association is likely to lodge a complaint with the Belgian Competition Authority against the Italian pharmaceutical company Leadiant. Allegedly, Leadiant abused its dominant position in the market for chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA), the active substance in the treatment of the rare metabolic disorder cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX), by increasing its price by approximately 33,500 % over a period of ten years.

In September last year, the Dutch Competition Authority also received a complaint against Leadiant from the Dutch foundation Farma ter Verantwoording. According to the foundation, Leadiant bought up the rights to the branded medicine Chenofalk, whose active substance is CDCA, and took it off the market, only to reintroduce it after having obtained a marketing authorisation for an orphan disease indication - thereby acquiring the exclusivity to market the product in the EU for a period of ten years - and increasing its price by approximately 50,000 %.

These recent calls to review Leadiant’s pricing behaviour are consistent with a renewed interest in alleged excessive pricing practices in pharmaceutical markets by competition authorities in a few Member States and at EU level. In November 2018, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) held a roundtable discussion on the issue of excessive pricing in the pharmaceutical sector, concluding that competition law enforcement action should be reserved for only exceptional cases. Click here to read our post on the roundtable (Competition authorities debate the circumstances in which intervention against alleged excessive pricing practice in the pharmaceutical sector may be justified).