One of the world's leading drug companies could face a fine of up to £220million if it is found to have been hiking the prices of cancer medicines by as much as 1,200%.

Daily Mail.

  • Aspen Pharmacare faces £220million fine for hiking prices of cancer medication
  • European Commission has opened an investigation into claims against drug firm
  • Last month company purchased rights to five treatments from Glaxosmithkline
  • Price of leukaemia treatment busulfan has since risen 1,200% from £5 to £69

One of the world's leading drug companies could face a fine of up to £220million if it is found to have been hiking the prices of cancer medicines by as much as 1,200%.

The European Commission has opened an investigation into Aspen Pharmacare over claims it 'imposed very significant and unjustified price increases' on five lifesaving drugs.

Last month it was reported that the South African company had purchased the rights to the five treatments from British pharmaceutical giant Glaxosmithkline.

The price of the leukaemia treatment busulfan has since risen 1,200 per cent in England and Wales, from £5.20 a pack, to £69.02, The Times reported.

Another treatment for disease, Chlorambucil, has also risen by 400 per cent from £8.36 to £42.87. 

It is the European Commission's first investigation into concerns about excessive pricing practices in the pharmaceutical industry, a spokesman said. 

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: 'When we get sick, we may depend on specific drugs to save or prolong our lives.

'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 said it was not in a position to comment on the investigation, but in a statement the company said: 'Aspen takes compliance with competition laws very seriously and will work constructively with the European Commission in its process.'

Dr Richard Torbett, executive director at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said:  'The practice of price hikes to generic medicines has had a damaging impact on trust of all pharmaceutical companies and the ABPI has repeatedly said that we do not in any way support or condone it.

'Thankfully, these examples are rare, and we are fully supportive of recent legislation that will allow the UK Government to tackle excessive profiteering and close a loophole that has allowed large price hikes to a small number of NHS medicines.'