Pharmacy board warns again of an Agostini monopoly

Christian Mouttet -
Christian Mouttet -

THE PHARMACY Board has once again expressed concern over a possible monopoly in the pharmaceutical industry as Agostini Ltd has announced the completion of the acquisition of Oscar Francois Ltd and its associate company Intersol Ltd. The companies were acquired under Agostini's pharmaceutical subsidiary, Smith Robertson Co Ltd.

Pharmacy Board chairman Andrew Rahaman warned of a possible rise in prices if the company becomes a monopoly. He appealed to the TT Fair Trade Commission (TTFTC) to pay special attention to the latest merger before it has to deal with the issue of dismantling it.

In a press release, Agostini announced the completion of the acquisition of the two companies on April 30.

“All conditions precedent for the acquisition of Oscar Francois Ltd and Intersol Ltd by Smith Robertson, a subsidiary of Agostini’s Ltd, have been met and the transaction has been completed,” it said. The deal also makes Smith Robertson the largest sole distributor for covid19 vaccine manufacturers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson Johnson.

Rahaman said he got complaints from his membership of items being in short supply for their businesses. but fully stocked at other stores.

He said with Agostini having the largest portion of the market share, it was not surprising that its pharmaceutical chain, SuperPharm, would be favoured.

“If something is scarce in any wholesale item it is only natural that SuperPharm would get their stock first.”

In an earlier news report, the TTFTC said its research showed Agostini held no contracts for sole distributions. For example, Panadol is distributed by both Shine Distributions and Smith Robertson.

In a media release in March, the TTFTC said it had consulted with stakeholders in the industry.

“The commission needed to be satisfied that the proposed merger transaction would not adversely affect competition,” the release said. “Based on the information received from the applicants, all other relevant stakeholders and the commission’s own investigations into the relevant markets, the commission was satisfied that the referenced merger would not adversely affect competition or be detrimental to consumers or to the economy.”

The TTFTC added that becoming a monopoly is not in itself a violation of the Fair Trading Act.

However, bundling of discounts through the use of an influence as a monopoly, unfair selling prices or predatory pricing, abusive increase of prices, fixing resale prices, colluding to prevent the use of generic alternatives, and posing as a barrier to the supply and distribution of goods are all offences under the act.

The TTFC promised to continue monitoring, and advised the public to inform it if they had any information on businesses breaching the act.

Newsday tried to reach Agostini’s chairman Christian Mouttet, but calls to his phone went unanswered.


"Pharmacy board warns again of an Agostini monopoly"

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