China fines 5 companies for monopoly on drug sales

China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has imposed fines totaling $608,000 on 5 mainland drugmakers and distributors for price-fixing of allopurinol, which is considered an essential medicine in China and is widely used to treat gout and hyperuricemia.

The NDRC fined drugmakers Chongqing Qingyang, Jiangsu Shimaotianjie, and Shanghai Xinyi, which have been the only three domestic producers of the tablets since 2014, according to the reports. They also fined distributors Chongqing Datong and Shangqiu Huajie, the reports said.

"Five companies have been fined for colluding to manipulate pricing and dividing the market of a common tablet," said Lu Yanchun, deputy inspector of the Price Supervision and Anti-Monopoly Bureau, according to a report by China Daily. "Even though the fine is not the largest issued since the NDRC began bringing actions against pricing collusion, it is significant."

The bureau found that between 2014 and 2015, the price of the tablets increased fourfold and three producers would only sell the drug in certain areas.

The reports also said about 60 companies, including domestic and foreign drugmakers, have been the subject of investigations since 2013 under China's antitrust laws. The first fines were issued in 2011 and totaled $1.06 million then.

- here's the report from CCTV and one from China Daily