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European Commission targets Aspen over 1,500% price hikes

Published on 16/05/17 at 10:18am

The European Commission (EC) has opened its first investigation over drug pricing following alleged hiking by pharma company Aspen, which breaches EU antitrust regulations.

Aspen is accused of “very significant and unjustified price increases of up to several hundred percent”, capitalising on its dominant market position as the only manufacturer of five specific varieties of anticancer therapy. The price hikes in question reached as much as 1,500%; the drug maker was accused of blackmailing the Italian Medicines Agency in October last year by threatening to withhold its live-saving cancer drugs in various member states if its price hikes were not accepted. This behaviour was met with a €5 million fine from the Italian regulator.

"When we get sick, we may depend on specific drugs to save or prolong our lives,” remarked Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who oversees competition policy at the EC. “Companies should be rewarded for producing these pharmaceuticals to ensure that they keep making them into the future. But when the price of a drug suddenly goes up by several hundred percent, this is something the Commission may look at. More specifically, in this case we will be assessing whether Aspen is breaking EU competition rules by charging excessive prices for a number of medicines."

Matt Fellows

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