Polish Competition Authority Takes Enforcement Action in Pharmaceutical Sector (Wholesalers and Medical Gases)
The Polish competition authority, the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK), has proven to be an energetic enforcer of the competition rules. Over the past few days, UOKiK found itself in the limelight because of two new distinct inquiries in the pharmaceutical sector that target pharmaceutical wholesalers and suppliers of medical gases (see, attached UOKiK press releases of 19 and 17 November 2020).
In September 2020, UOKiK officials carried out surprise inspections at the premises of both pharmaceutical wholesalers and software suppliers, six in total. These parties stand accused of having exchanged business-sensitive information, including medicine prices, while relying on specific software that allowed for the review of competing wholesale prices. The practices are allegedly in breach of Polish and EU competition law.
The President of UOKiK announced the start of an inquiry into the supply of medical gases, especially oxygen, to hospitals. Oxygen plays an important part in the treatment of patients afflicted with Covid-19. The Polish hospital market for medical gases is highly concentrated with the four largest players having an aggregate market share in excess of 90%. UOKiK will probe that market for possible foreclosure resulting from unilateral abusive conduct or multilateral collusive behaviour. The objective of UOKiK is to guarantee market access for all suppliers, including the smaller players, and thus ensure the uninterrupted supply of medical gases to hospitals and their patients. In this context, market access also implies the ability for newcomers to use the systems, logistics and infrastructure already in place in the hospital for the delivery and administration of the gases.
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