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The European Commission has opened a formal investigation into Aspen Pharma over allegations the drug maker engaged in price gouging for five life-saving cancer medicines, marking the first EC probe into excessive pricing in the pharmaceutical industry.

The move, which was urged last month by consumer advocacy groups in Europe, comes after Italian antitrust authorities last October fined the drug maker $5.5 million for halting supplies of several cancer drugs as a negotiating tactic designed to boost prices by as much as 1,500 percent.

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