MRTPC lens on Cipla’s African exports
THE Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) has asked its investigation wing to probe a US-based NGO’s allegation that pharma major Cipla is selling a crucial AIDS drug in Africa twoand-a-half times cheaper than in India. MRTPC wants to know why Indian consumers should subsidise the drug for patients in Africa. Cipla denies the allegation, saying it does not sell Viraday, a combination of three drugs, in Africa. The commission took note of the recent advertisements by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which said the Cipla brand is available to a patient in Africa for Rs 21,200 for a year’s treatment while it costs Rs 54,000 in India. It has asked the director-general of investigation and registration (DGIR) to find out the facts from the NGO and Cipla. The commission believes that the NGO must have some basis for making such an allegation through advertisements in leading Indian newspapers. It will ask whether the NGO has got any proof such as an invoice from Cipla to any importer in Africa. Cipla joint managing director Amar Lulla told ET that the company has not sold a single unit of Viraday in Africa. Asked if it was possible that NGOs that procure drugs from Cipla might be selling the drug in Africa at a subsidised price, Mr Lulla said, “Not a single unit has gone to Africa. This would be our response to the commission.” While MRTPC is not a price regulator, it intervenes where it feels there is an unfair trade practice. It had directed biotech major Mahyco-Monsanto to reduce the price of its of genetically modified Bt-cotton seeds, saying the price should be reasonable. It asked the company not to charge Rs 900 for a packet of 450 gm and to fix a reasonable trait value as charged by its parent company, Monsanto in China. After the Supreme Court refused to stay the MRTPC order in an appeal by the company, the APgovernment fixed the price at Rs 750. MRTPC sources say prices could be a function of market forces, but on essential goods like medicines, there should be a reasonable connection between the price in the country where it is manufactured and the export price.