Aspen Pharma agrees to cut the price of six of its cancer drugs and Brussels closes the case

The EC opened an investigation into the pharmaceutical company for the excessive prices that the company applied to some of its medicines.

The Vice-President of the Commission, Margrethe Vestager.

The European Commission announced this Wednesday the closure of a file for abuse of a dominant position opened against the multinational Aspen Pharma. The pharmaceutical company has agreed to cut the price of six anticancer drugs by 73% on average and guarantee their supply in the European Union for at least five years.

The case dates back to 2017, when Brussels opened the case for the excessive prices that Aspen applied in the European Union to half a dozen anticancer drugs considered “essential” and that are no longer protected by patents, for example those marketed under the Alkeran, Leukeran and Purinethol brands.

According to the vice president of the Community Executive responsible for competition, Margrethe Vestager, the cuts made by the pharmaceutical company will allow savings of “tens of millions of euros” to European healthcare systems. In addition, it is a warning to other pharmaceutical companies with dominant positions that “they must renounce abusive pricing practices to exploit” European health systems.

The drugs in question are used for the treatment of leukemia and other hematological cancers and were purchased from another company by Aspen in 2012, from which time it began to progressively increase prices in all European countries, up to a 300% increase in some cases regarding the relevant costs, according to Brussels.

During its investigation of the Aspen practices, the Community Executive did not find “any legitimate reason that justified the extremely high level” of the benefits obtained by the multinational, since the patents for the drugs in question expired 50 years ago.

Vestager wanted to underline in a press conference that the Community Executive is clear that it is not its role to regulate prices, but that in cases in which companies “They exploit the lack of competition” so it must intervene.

The European Competition authorities took into account to act that medicines have not been protected by a patent for 50 years, which means that all investment in R&D “has already been completely recovered” and considers the increases “clearly disproportionate” of prices.

In addition, Aspen Pharma took advantage of the fact that patients and doctors did not have alternative medicines and that, when they tried to oppose the increases, the pharmaceutical company threatened to remove them from the list of reimbursable drugs and even showed willing to withdraw its supply.

The corrections accepted by the Commission are part of the measures proposed last summer by Aspen Pharma to avoid the sanctioning file.