Aspen Pharmacare

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Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited
TypePublic (JSE: APN)
JSE Limited
IndustryHealth care, Pharmaceutical industry
Founded1850, public 1997.
South Africa
Key people
Stephen Saad (Group Chief Executive), Gus Attridge (Deputy Group Chief Executive)
ProductsSpecialty branded pharmaceuticals, injectables, tablets, liquids, capsules, steriles, biologicals, active ingredients active pharmaceutical ingredients, nutritional products
RevenueIncreaseR42,596,000,000 (FY 2018)
IncreaseR8,288,000,000 (FY 2018)
Total assetsIncreaseR132,836,000,000 (FY 2018)
Total equityIncreaseR50,095,000,000 (FY 2018)
OwnerJSE Listed
Number of employees

Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited is a multinational South African holding company for pharmaceutical concerns, and the largest drug company in Africa.[1][2]


Activity in HIV/AIDS-related medicines[edit]

After complaints of anticompetitive activities by Boehringer Ingelheim and GlaxoSmithKline in 2003, Aspen was granted licenses from the companies to create generic versions of antiretrovirals (ARV) for use in the Sub-Saharan portion of Africa.[3] At the time, Aspen was already the largest generic medicine distributor in South Africa.[3] Subsequent inspections by international organisations led to a rapid increase in distribution capabilities, primarily though integration with alliance partners.[3] The company's efforts led to expanded access to affordable treatments for HIV/AIDS.[4]


Aspen has been criticised for increasing the prices of generic drugs it sells. It was fined for price-gouging in Italy where it paid $5.5m in October 2016 for its behaviour.[5][6] It has been accused of the same practices, including artificially restricting supply, in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France and Brazil. In France, three people died after being given cyclophosphamide, an alternative drug to Aspen's melphalan which had gone up in price. An investigation is currently ongoing.[7]

Similarly, Aspen's busulfan, a treatment for chronic myeloid leukaemia, was bought by the British National Health Service for 21p for 2 mg in 2011, rising to £2.61 in 2016, a hike of 1,143%.[7]

The Guardian newspaper has linked this activity to a rise in Aspen's share price. Between 2009 and 2016 it rose more than 650% and GSK sold its shares in Aspen earning about £1.5bn.[7]

In May 2017, the European Commission announced it would open an investigation into Aspen's pricing practices.[8]

In July 2020, the European Commission announced in a communication that Aspen committed to a 73% price reduction of the medicines over 10 years while guaranteeing supply over a minimum period of 5 years. In order to prevent any further abuse of a dominant position, if Aspen intends to discontinue the supplying, the company must inform the concerned Member States authorities of this intention at least one year in advance and must make the marketing authorizations for the products available to any interested third party.[9]

Thyrax shortage in The Netherlands[edit]

In January 2016, Aspen announced that due to production problems, tablets with 0.025 mg Thyrax (levothyroxine) would not be available from mid-2016. Later, it was announced that this shortage would last well into 2017. People who took this medication had to switch to alternatives, which led to 30% of them experiencing side-effects because of this shift.[10]


  1. ^ Simeon Bennett; Michael Cohen (21 May 2010). "Aspen Pharmacare Offers to Buy Australia's Sigma Pharma for $1.23 Billion". Bloomberg News.
  2. ^ Tenu Avafia; Jonathan Berger; Trudi Hartzenberg (2009). "8. The ability to utilize TRIPS flexibilities in sub-Saharan African countries". In Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz; Pedro Roffe (eds.). Intellectual Property and Sustainable Development: Development Agendas in a Changing World. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 177–8. ISBN 978-1-84844-645-8.
  3. ^ a b c Patrick Lumumba Osewe; Yvonne Korkoi Nkrumah; Emmanuel K. Sackey (2008). Improving Access to HIV/AIDS Medicines in Africa: Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Flexibilities Utilization. World Bank Publications. pp. 35–9. ISBN 978-0-8213-7544-0.
  4. ^ Karen Maas; Frank Boons (2010). "7. CSR as a strategic activity". In Céline Louche; Samuel O. Idowu; Walter Leal Filho (eds.). Innovative CSR: From Risk Management to Value Creation. Greenleaf Publishing. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-906093-35-8.
  5. ^ Ed Silverman: Drug maker fined for shorting supplies of cancer drugs in order to raise prices, STAT News, 17 October 2016
  6. ^ Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato: Ruling of the session on September 29, 2016, 2016
  7. ^ a b c Editor, Sarah Boseley Health (28 January 2017). "Drugs firms are accused of putting cancer patients at risk over price hikes" – via The Guardian.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Aspen under EU antitrust spotlight over excessive cancer drug prices". Reuters. 15 May 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  9. ^ "EUR-Lex - 52020XC0715(01) - EN - EUR-Lex". Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  10. ^ "Report about the effects on patients that had to switch from thyrax" (PDF).