Drug giants accused of charging NHS ‘unfairly high’ prices


Carpet companies Pfizer and Flynn have been accused by the UK competition watchdog of abusing their dominant position to overcharge the NHS for anti-epileptic drugs in “overnight” skyrocketing prices.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had provisionally found that Flynn and Covid-19 vaccine maker Pfizer violated competition law by charging “unfairly high” prices for phenytoin sodium capsules – increasing the cost of treatment by up to 2,600%.

These measures saw NHS spending on capsules rise from around £ 2million per year in 2012 to around £ 50million in 2013, according to the CMA.

It comes after the CMA reassessed the case following appeals by both companies against an earlier ruling in December 2016, which sentenced them to a record fine of £ 90million.

In 2018, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) upheld much of the initial findings, but referred the abuse of illegal dominance case back to the CMA for further investigation.

As Pfizer and Flynn were the main suppliers of the drug in the UK, the NHS had no choice but to pay unfairly high prices for this vital drug.

The CMA and Flynn then took the case to the Court of Appeal, which dismissed the pharmaceutical company’s appeal but upheld certain aspects of the CMA’s case, prompting it to re-investigate, launching its current survey in June 2020.

CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli said: “Thousands of patients depend on this drug to prevent life-threatening epileptic seizures.

“As the CAT has recognized, this is an important issue for government, for the public as patients and taxpayers, and for the pharmaceutical industry itself.

“Protecting these patients, the NHS and the taxpayers who fund it is our priority. “

The CMA alleged that the companies exploited a loophole by ‘de-labeling’ the drug – previously known as Epanutin – meaning the treatment was regulated by price in the same way as drugs. brand.

“Pfizer and Flynn being the main suppliers of the drug to the UK, the NHS had no choice but to pay unfairly high prices for this vital drug,” said the CMA.

Pfizer’s prices have climbed 780% to 1,600% in four years.

Pfizer then supplied the drug to Flynn, who sold it to wholesalers and pharmacies at prices between 2,300% and 2,600% higher than they had previously paid, according to the CMA.

The CMA said Pfizer and Flynn now have an opportunity to respond to its provisional findings before a final decision is made.

It comes amid a crackdown by the regulator on illegal drug company behavior, with the CMA recently fining several drugmakers over £ 260million after overcharging the NHS for hydrocortisone tablets.

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