The European Commission announced on Monday that it is formally investigating whether South Africa-based pharmaceutical company Aspen excessively hiked the prices of five life-saving cancer drugs on sale in the EU.

The commission said it will investigate whether Aspen has abused a dominant market position in breach of EU antitrust rules.

“When we get sick, we may depend on specific drugs to save or prolong our lives,” Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner in charge of competition policy, said.

“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 per cent, this is something the commission

may look at.”

The commission said its investigation concerned Aspen’s pricing practices for niche medicines that contain the

active pharmaceutical ingredients chlorambucil, melphalan, mercaptopurine, tioguanine and busulfan.

The ingredients are used mostly for treating cancer and sold with different formulations and under multiple

brand names.

The investigation was launched after the commission received information indicating that Aspen had imposed

significant and unjustified price increases of up to several hundred per cent, a practice known as ‘price

gouging’.

The commission also has information that, in order to force through such price increases, Aspen has threatened

to withdraw the medicines in question in some EU member states and has followed through on that threat in

certain cases.

This is the commission’s first investigation into concerns about excessive pricing practices in t]he

pharmaceutical industry.(dpa/NAN)

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