Why did you decide to offer a course on competition enforcement in the pharmaceutical sector? Why is it an important topic for MINT students?
The rapid launch of successful vaccines and therapeutics to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of gene therapies that will permanently cure patients with chronic diseases are just two among many recent prominent examples of the enormous impact the pharmaceutical sector is having on human health around the world. Improving health conditions requires new and effective but also affordable medicines. Competition enforcement has a role to play to spur innovation and discipline prices.
Competition helps in keeping prices affordable — competition from generics and bio-similars drives prices down often by more than 50 %. Pharmaceutical companies spend more than $250bn per year on research and development. Competition helps in fostering innovation, as companies seek to displace old treatments by more effective ones and by addressing new conditions.
Nevertheless, profit seeking pharmaceutical companies have an incentive to extract as much of the value that they create by distorting competition, and they can often justify their conduct on plausible grounds. Understanding the discipline that the enforcement of the rules of competition can exercise on them is an important element in forming a view on how the challenge of improving health conditions for all can be realistically met.
Can you share real-world examples or highlights of the course that would captivate students' interest and stress the course practical relevance?
Lundbeck, selling Citaloprom (an anti-depressant drug) sued a number of generic manufacturers for infringements of its property right but eventually entered into a settlement in which the generic manufacturers agreed to act as resellers. Genetech developed a cancer drug sold at 40 euros per dose in a number of EU countries, which was also used effectively to treat age related macular disease (a common ophthalmic condition) until a specific drug was introduced to treat this condition (on behalf of Genetech) at 1 100 euros per dose. Leadiant registered a molecule developed 40 years ago as an orphan drug for the treatment of a rare genetic metabolic disorder and increased the price from 40 to more 14 000 euros per pack in a number of EU countries. These conducts have large consequences for the affordability of medicines. What is the standard against which these conducts are (or should be) assessed?
What skills do you believe students will acquire through this course, and how can these be applied in various academic and professional contexts?
Competition enforcement is a highly technical field, both in terms of the law and the economics. Nevertheless, the underlying principles are straightforward and can be explained in simple terms. Students should be able to develop their ability to analyse policies in the regulation of pharmaceutical sector and its contribution to global health. Even if competition enforcement in the pharmaceutical sector has a number of idiosyncrasies, its analysis provides insights about competition enforcement and the dynamic competition that apply more generally. It could also be a first introduction to competition enforcement leading to further education in the fields of competition economics and competition law