In a revelation which would disgust even the most hardened cynic, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Aspen Pharmacare, has been involved in denying life-saving cancer treatments in order to boost profits across the European Union.
Over the course of 2014, Aspen Pharmacare and the Spanish health service were locked in a bitter dispute over the price of cancer medicines. Aspen wished to drive up the price of five treatments by as much as 4,000%. The Spanish health authorities refused point blank to accept this outrageous proposal.
Aspen responded by manufacturing a drug shortage to ensure that their demands were met.
In May 2014, Aspen cut off direct supplies of the drugs from Spain, leaving patients dependent on imported medicines at a far greater cost. Effected patients included children and the elderly.
Even worse, internal emails leaked to The Times revealed that when asked by an employee about what should be done with existing Spanish packs of the medicine, a senior executive at Aspen advised that if the price dispute could not be resolved in Aspen’s favour “the only option will be to donate or destroy this stock.”
What clearer example of capitalism’s inhumanity could there possibly be? Large pharmaceutical corporations would rather destroy life-saving drugs than see their profits compromised.
Aspen’s price rises are part of a calculated continent-wide campaign to drive up the cost of five forms of cancer medicine (melphalan, chlorambucil, mercaptopurine, thioguanine, and busulfan), recently purchased from the British company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
In England and Wales, for instance, Aspen’s price rises have already led to an increase in the cost of Busulfan, a drug used by leukaemia patients, from £5.20 to £65.22 – an increase of more than 1,100%. In 2013, the price of Chlorambucil was also driven up, from £8.36 to £40.51 a pack.
In Italy, Aspen threatened to cut off supplies of cancer drugs altogether unless the health authorities agreed to a 2,100% price increase within three months. Aspen were the only company holding the license to sell these drugs in Italy.
Although the health service ultimately agreed to these extortionate demands, the Italian competition watchdog (AGCM) claimed that throughout the negotiations Aspen withheld drugs in to order to heap pressure on the health authorities.