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Tesco, Sainsbury match Asda on plan to sell cancer drug at cost price

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New York City U.K. supermarket groups Tesco and J Sainsbury said they will match rival Asda Group Ltd. on retail pricing for cancer drugs after Asda pledged to sell the drugs on a not-for-profit basis.

Asda, the second-largest supermarket retailer in the United Kingdom by sales and market share behind Tesco, is owned by Wal-Mart Stores. Asda said its not-for-profit price would be effective in its stores from May 24.

Meanwhile, another U.K. supermarket chain, William Morrison Supermarkets PLC, said it has been retailing cancer drugs at cost price for two years already and therefore does "not need to engage in a price war."

Asda said research showed pharmacies are marking up the cost of the drugs on private prescriptions by up to 76%, with 63% of consumers unaware that private prescription prices vary between them. The company said it had checked the price of seven of the most commonly, privately prescribed cancer drugs in UK pharmacies and had found mark-ups of up to 76%.

"Cancer is the U.K.'s second biggest killer, affecting nearly 300,000 people per year and for many the cost of treatment is well above what they can afford," Asda said in a statement.

In the United Kingdom, some cancer drugs are considered too costly to be available on the state-run National Health Service. They also are eligible for price mark-ups by retailers