Inquiry covers claims that Aspen Pharma’s price rises on five cancer treatments were unjustified

The European Commission has begun a formal inquiry into Aspen Pharma’s drug pricing practices. The move follows claims that the South Africa-based company inflated the price of five cancer treatments, and withheld medicines from some EU member states to impose unjustified price rises. It is the first time that the commission has officially investigated pricing practices for pharmaceuticals.

‘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,’ said Margrethe Vestager, European Commisioner for Competition, in a statement. ‘In this case we will be assessing whether Aspen is breaking EU competition rules by charging excessive prices for a number of medicines,’ she added.

Aspen was fined €5 million (£4.3 million) last year by Italy’s competition authorities for unfair price increases of up to 1500% for ‘life-saving and irreplaceable’ medicines.

While Aspen will not comment on the ongoing investigation, the company has stated that it ‘takes compliance with competition laws very seriously and will work constructively work with the European Commission’ during this process.