Turkish Daily News, February 8, 2007

Roche, Bayer, Pfizer: Organized crime charges hit drug firms

Istanbul's chief prosecutor filed charges against 30 firms including Roche, Abdi Ibrahim, Bayer, Glaxo Smith Klein and Pfizer for overcharging government institutions for pharmaceuticals

Following the lawsuit filed on Monday against pharmaceutical giant Roche for overcharging the Social Security Authority (SSK) and the Ministry of Health, 29 other drug firms are being sued for "organized crime".

The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office, while probing further into the Roche case, completed its investigation into 30 pharmaceutical firms this week. The lawsuit against the 30 firms including Roche, Abdi Ibrahim, Bayer, Glaxo Smith Klein and Pfizer accuses the firms of overcharging public institutions when selling their drugs.

The firms are charged with "participating in an unlawful organization formed with the aim of committing crime, abusing authority, forging official documents and lying in official documents", according to the indictment by the public prosecutor. The first hearing of the case will be held on May 18, 2007 at Istanbul's 10th Minor Offenses Court. Case number 2007/75E is charging 37 staff members of the companies.

The main accusation in the case is "damaging public interest" by using a reference pricing system for imported medicine. According to this system, those medicines to be imported to Turkey should be priced compared to the lowest price of their equivalents in France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal. The accusation states that the 30 firms in question did not select the lowest price in this process, thus overcharging the public.

The Roche investigation was the starting point of the lawsuit. While investigating Roche for overcharging the SSK and the Health Ministry, the Prime Ministry's Inspectorate determined that 29 other firms had also overcharged government institutions. The inspectorate wrote a report to the Health Ministry, prompting a second investigation.

When the second investigation was completed, it was revealed that 30 firms had sold 209 different medications to government institutions at prices extremely higher than what the Health Ministry had decided upon earlier. The ministry later filed a criminal complaint of 113 pages to the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office. The one year investigation by the Prosecutor's Office was finalized last week.

The case file that was submitted to the Istanbul 10th Minor Offenses Court was approved by the judge and the first hearing was scheduled for May 18, 2007. Because of the pending legal procedure, pharmaceutical firms and the Ministry of Health have not given statements.