Drug company accused of abusing its position to overcharge the NHS

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that Concordia abused its dominant position to overcharge the NHS

The CMA has been investigating how much the pharmaceutical company was charging for liothyronine tablets.

It found that last year, the NHS spent more than £34 million on the drug, an increase from around £600,000 in 2006.

The amount it paid per pack rose from around £4.46 before it was de-branded in 2007 to £258.19 by July 2017, an increase of almost 6000%, while production costs remained broadly stable.

Liothyronine tablets are primarily used to treat hypothyroidism, a condition caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone affecting at least 2 in every 100 people and which can lead to depression, tiredness and weight gain.

Although liothyronine tablets are not the primary treatment for hypothyroidism, for many patients there is no suitable alternative and until earlier this year, Concordia was the only supplier.

CMA Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli, said: “Pharmaceutical companies, which abuse their position and overcharge for drugs are forcing the NHS — and the UK taxpayer — to pay over the odds for important medical treatments.

“We allege that Concordia used its market dominance in the supply of liothyronine tablets to do exactly that.”

“At this stage in the investigation, our findings are provisional and there has been no definitive decision that there has been a breach of competition law.”

“We will carefully consider any representations from the companies before deciding whether the law has in fact been broken.”

The CMA is addressing its Statement of Objections (SO) to Concordia, as well as to Cinven and HgCapital — private equity firms and previous owners of entities now forming part of Concordia. All now have an opportunity to respond to the provisional findings set out in the SO.

This is one of a number of CMA cases in the pharmaceutical sector, including a recent fine against Pfizer and Flynn Pharma of nearly £90 m in relation to excessive and unfair prices for anti-epilepsy treatment, phenytoin sodium capsules, in which the CMA’s decision is currently under appeal.

The CMA also fined a number of pharmaceutical companies a total of £45 m in relation to anti-depressant medicine paroxetine; that decision is also under appeal.

The CMA is pursuing another seven investigations into several companies in relation to drug pricing and competition issues. These can all be viewed on CMA’s case pages.