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EU probes Aspen price hikes for cancer drugs

17 May 2017, 16:38 CET
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EU probes Aspen price hikes for cancer drugs


(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission opened Monday a formal investigation into concerns that Aspen Pharma has engaged in excessive pricing concerning five life-saving cancer medicines.

The investigation concerns the pricing practices of Southg-Agrican based Aspen for niche medicines containing the active pharmaceutical ingredients chlorambucil, melphalan, mercaptopurine, tioguanine and busulfan.

The medicines in question are used for treating cancer, such as hematologic tumours. They are sold with different formulations and under multiple brand names. Aspen acquired these medicines after their patent protection had expired.

The Commission says it will investigate information indicating that Aspen has imposed very significant and unjustified price increases of up to several hundred percent, so-called 'price gouging'. The Commission has information that, for example, to impose such price increases, Aspen has threatened to withdraw the medicines in question in some Member States and has actually done so in certain cases.

"Companies should be rewarded for producing these pharmaceuticals to ensure that they keep making them into the future," said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. "But when the price of a drug suddenly goes up by several hundred per cent, this is something the Commission may look at."

The EU executive says Aspen's behaviour may be in breach of the EU's antitrust rules (Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 54 of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, which forbid the imposition of unfair prices or unfair trading conditions on customers.

The investigation covers all of the EEA except Italy, where the Italian competition authority already adopted an infringement decision against Aspen on 29 September 2016.

This is the Commission's first investigation into concerns about excessive pricing practices in the pharmaceutical industry.

More information on the investigation will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number 40394.

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