[Ip-health] Stat: Drug maker offers to slash prices on cancer medicines to end European price gouging probe

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Jul 15 05:58:35 PDT 2020


Drug maker offers to slash prices on cancer medicines to end European price
gouging probe
By ED SILVERMAN @Pharmalot
JULY 14, 2020

In response to a probe into alleged price gouging, Aspen Pharma has agreed
to slash the prices of six cancer medicines sold across Europe by an
average of 73% and also ensure that supplies remain available on the
continent for another decade.

In announcing the offer, the European Commission found the drug maker
charged “excessive” prices for cancer medicines that were, in some cases,
decades old and no longer were protected by patents. In other words,
developments costs had long since been recouped. Yet Aspen charged prices
that exceeded its costs by almost 300%, on average, even when considering a
reasonable rate of return.

Meanwhile, there were few alternative treatments and when authorities in
different countries tried to resist price hikes, Aspen threatened to
withdraw its cancer medicines from national formularies and, in some cases,
the company planned to withhold the drugs from the market, according to a
European Commission statement. The medicines are largely used to treat
leukemia and different blood cancers.

“Pharmaceutical companies often bring innovative medicines to the market
and they should be rewarded for that. However, they sometimes also use
their dominant position to increase prices of old, but critical medicines
by several hundred percent without justification,” Margrethe Vestager,
European Commission executive vice president for competition policy, said
in a statement.

Related: European Parliament backs WHO effort to create a Covid-19
technology access pool

The move comes three years after the European Commission began
investigating the drug maker, which is based in South Africa. At the time,
Aspen had recently been fined by Italian anti-trust authorities for halting
supplies of the medicines as part of a negotiating tactic designed to boost
prices between 300% and 1,500%. Consequently, consumer advocacy groups
pushed European officials to open a broader anti-trust investigation.

The European Commission, however, has not issued a final decision while
awaiting comments on the Aspen Pharma proposal. If the European Commission
is satisfied the offer will alleviate anti-trust concerns, the proposal
would become legally binding, but the drug maker would not be accused of
infringing European Union anti-trust rules.

The development was cheered by the BEUC, the European Consumer
Organization, a coalition of consumer advocacy groups in 32 countries,
which pushed for the anti-trust investigation.

Related: Seeking EU approval on acquisition, Google pledges not to use
Fitbit health data to target ads

“These commitments show that high prices for off-patent anti-cancer drugs
are unjustified and have no place in the EU. Sky-high prices put patients’
lives at risk and cause serious financial harm to healthcare systems,” said
BEUC head Monique Goyens in a statement. “These commitments will rightly
benefit patients and healthcare systems as soon as the EU Commission
renders them binding, without years of legal wrangling in the courts.”

Last week, meanwhile, the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority finalized
a decision in which Aspen Pharma paid a $2.5 million fine for engaging in
anti-competitive practices with two other companies concerning a blood
pressure tablet. The company had previously agreed to also pay more than $9
million directly to the U.K. National Health Service to settle the

About the Author

Ed Silverman
Pharmalot Columnist, Senior Writer
Ed covers the pharmaceutical industry.
 ed.silverman at statnews.com

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

More information about the Ip-health mailing list