In a major scandal, Pharma giant Aspen plotted to destroy key cancer drugs to create a scarcity and drive prices up by a shocking 4000%
Scandals in health care and pharma sectors are aplenty. But the latest one is shocking. Pharma giant Aspen reportedly put plans in place to destroy key life-saving cancer drugs in order to drive prices up by a whopping 4000% !!
In arm-twisting tactics, Aspen reportedly threatened to create a scarcity and stop selling cancer treatment drugs unless Spain’s Health Minister agreed to price rises of up to 4,000 per cent.
This was revealed in an exclusive in the Spanish news portal El Confidencial.
What is more shocking is that when the minister finally had to succumb to the threats, employees of Aspen called for celebrations over price hike.
The celebration angle came out in leaked internal emails, an investigation has revealed.
The Times published a confidential email of an Aspen employee which said: “We’ve signed new reimbursement and price agreement successfully: price increases are basically on line with European target prices (Leukeran, a bit higher!)… Let’s celebrate!”
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The move to destroy stocks on life-saving cancer drugs by staff at Aspen Pharmacare reportedly took place in 2014.
This is how it happened: Aspen purchased five different cancer drugs from British firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in 2009 as part of a deal worth £273million. Aspen then tried to sell the medicines in Europe for up to 40 times their previous price, according to a report in The Times.
In 2013, the price of one pack of a chemotherapy drug called busulfan, used to treat leukaemia, rose from £5.20 to £65.22 in England and Wales, according to the newspaper.
The other four drugs, including leukeran, also used by leukaemia patients, and melphalan, for skin and ovarian cancers, also became dearer by up to four times.
It is “worrying” is that several drug companies have increased the price of cancer treatment, a senior pharmacology research fellow at the University of Liverpool, told the BBC.
Spain is not alone in facing the threat from Aspen. According to The Times’s investigation, the company also threatened Italy telling it that the supply of life-saving cancer drugs would stop if health care authorities did not agree to price rises of up to 2,100 per cent in three months.
A recent ruling by the Italian competition watchdog found Aspen had adopted an “aggressive” approach to drug price negotiations in the country.
A UK Department of Health spokesperson said new laws were being introduced this year allowing the Government to “take action against excessive price rises on unbranded generic medicines.”
Aspen is based in South Africa and has its European headquarters in Dublin.