Britain’s competition watchdog has fined drug companies Pfizer and Flynn Pharma a total of almost £90 million for overcharging the National Health Service (NHS) for an epilepsy drug and ordered the medication’s price be reduced.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the pharma giants’ 2,600 percent overnight price hike for the phenytoin sodium capsules, used to treat epilepsy, occurred after the drug was deliberately de-branded, or “genericized,” meaning it was no longer subject to price regulation. As a result NHS spending on the drug rose from £2 million (R34.6 million) a year in 2012 to about £50 million (R866 million) in 2013.
Pfizer was slapped with a record £84.2 million fine (R1.45 billion), while distributer Flynn must pay £5.2 million (R90 million).
“The companies deliberately exploited the opportunity offered by de-branding to hike up the price for a drug which is relied upon by many thousands of patients,” said Philip Marsden, chairman of the case decision group for the CMA’s investigation, adding that U.K. prices were many times higher than the rest of the EU.
In a statement, Pfizer denied it had done anything wrong, saying it believed it “fully complies with established competition law” and will appeal the decision.
The drugs giant said the increased price of the drug was still 25 to 40 percent below the cost of an equivalent medicine by another NHS supplier.
The CMA is currently undertaking four other investigations into the pharmaceutical sector. In February the watchdog fined several drugmakers a total of £45 million (R779 million) for anti-competitive agreements and conduct in relation to the supply of anti-depressant drug paroxetine.