In 2007, three national pharmacy chains ("Salcobrand
" and "Cruz Verde
"), who were supposedly competing businesses, agreed jointly to raise the price of 222 medications
. Among the pharmaceutical products included in the agreement were remedies for ailments such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, and rheumatism.
Also included in the agreed price increases were contraceptives and antibiotics. All products are of great need and high demand to maintain or improve the health of children, adults and elderly patients.
For five years, the three pharmacies maintained their collusion to deceive Chilean consumers. This brought the pharmacy chains a total profit estimated at about US$ 40 million.
One of the three companies (Ahumada
), for reasons that are unclear, denounced the conspiracy
and managed to benefit of the application of lesser fines for violation of the legislation regulating anti-competitive conduct by companies. Nevertheless, 10 executives of the three companies that were named responsible of the scheme were tried since 2012, and the judgment was released on July 8.
The outcome of the case is a suspension of judgment for one year under the condition that the companies make donations which total less than half a million dollars. The donations will go to benefit health-related, non-profit NGOs (such as the National Cancer Corporation, the Chilean League against Epilepsy, the Red Cross and the Corporation in Support of Burnt Children). Moreover, the "reparative agreement" includes the executive’s attendance to a 30-hour course on "Business Ethics", reports ElMostrador
Upon learning of the ruling, the ten executives responsible for the collusion to raise prices of essential prescription remedies could not be happier. In essence, the court ruling meant that the US$ 40 million profit for the pharmacy chains, at the expense of thousands of sick people for five years, had a cost of only half a million dollars. Such exiguous financial punishment and the ridiculous business ethics course have been considered by Chilean society as an indication that fraud pays, that justice can be purchased, and that those who have economic power are above the principles of justice and equality before the law.