The European Commission is formally investigating whether Aspen Pharma has overpriced five cancer medications and whether the company has abused its market position.
"When we get sick, we may depend on specific drugs to save or prolong our lives," Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a press release. "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."
Aspen is being investigated for pricing on cancer medicines with ingredients containing chlorambucil, melphalan, mercaptopurine, tioguanine and busulfan. These are sold in different formulas and with various brand names. Aspen acquired these after the patent protection expired.
The commission is investigating information indicating that the company engaged in "price gouging" by increasing prices by up to three times the original price. Some information indicates that Aspen also threatened to withdraw the medicine in some states, and has even done so in some cases, according to the press release. Such behavior may violate the EU's antitrust rules regarding unfair pricing and trade conditions.
The case covers the entire European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement forbidding unfair pricing, except for Italy, which has already made a judgment against the company.
This is the commission's first investigation into pharmaceutical pricing.