Drugmakers fined a record £260 million after 10,000% drug price increase
The UK’s competition authority has issued its largest ever fine of more than £260 million ($360 million) to several pharma companies accused of colluding to hike the price of medicines delivered to the NHS.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took the action against Auden Mckenzie and Actavis UK – now known as Accord-UK – alongside other companies after an investigation into the price of hydrocortisone tablets, which saw prices rise by 10,000% over a 10-year period.
CMA chief executive, Andrea Coscelli, slammed the actions as “some of the most serious abuses we have uncovered in recent years,” which are thought to have cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds.
Hydrocortisone tablets are used to treat adrenal insufficiency, which includes life-threatening conditions such as Addison’s disease. The price of a pack of 10mg tablets went from 70p in 2008 to £88 in 2016, while a 20mg pack rose from £1.07 to £102.74.
Before April 2008, the NHS was spending approximately £500,000 a year on hydrocortisone tablets, but that had swelled to £80 million by 2016.
There was also issue taken by two of the companies pressuring and paying off other companies to stay out of the market in order to avoid price competition. Auden Mckenzie paid off would-be competitors Advanz Pharma and Waymade to keep them out of the market, while Actavis UK continued paying off AMCo after taking over sales of hydrocortisone tablets in 2015.
Coscelli said: “Auden Mckenzie’s decision to raise prices for de-branded drugs meant that the NHS had no choice but to pay huge sums of taxpayers’ money for life-saving medicines.
“These were egregious breaches of the law that artificially inflated the costs faced by the NHS, reducing the money available for patient care.”
Accord-UK – as well as parent companies Intas, Accord, and former parent Allergan – have collectively been fined £155 million for charging the NHS excessive and unfair prices. Accord-UK and Allergan have also been fined a further £66 million for paying competitors to stay out of the market, while Advanz and its former parent Cinven must pay £43 million and Waymade £2.5 million.
The fines come amid a CMA crackdown on the pharma industry’s practises, including a probe of the price of antidepressants and other drugs during the pandemic.
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