An investigation by the Autorité de la concurrence et des marchés (CMA) found that from 2009 to 2017, Advanz charged “excessive and unfair prices” for the supply of liothyronine tablets, which are used to treat drug deficiency. thyroid hormones.
The watchdog said this was because the drugs faced “little or no competition,” meaning they could withstand repeated price increases, which “were not driven by any innovation or investment. significant “.
The price hike started in 2007 and in 2009 tablet packs cost £ 20. That amount rose to £ 248 in 2017, an increase of 6,000% from the price of £ 4 in 2006, the CMA said.
The drug was placed on the NHS ‘drop-down list’ in July 2015, meaning patients either had to stop their current treatment or start paying for the tablets themselves.
Advanz was fined £ 40.9million, while its former private equity owners HgCapital and Cinven, now part of the company, were fined £ 8.6million and £ 51.9million.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticized the firm for “taking advantage” of the NHS, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said: ‘The Prime Minister believes it is totally unacceptable and exploitative for any individual or business to take advantage of the NHS at all times, especially when dealing with a pandemic.
Andrea Coscelli, managing director of the CMA, said the company’s actions to raise prices had “a huge cost to the NHS and, ultimately, to UK taxpayers”.
“That was not all,” he added. “It also meant that people with depression and extreme fatigue, due to their thyroid issues, were told they couldn’t continue to receive the treatment that worked best for them because of its higher price tag. .
“Advanz’s strategy exploited a loophole that allowed it to reap much higher profits. This fine of over £ 100million, and our work in the pharmaceutical industry to date, sends a clear message that breaking the law has serious consequences. “
A spokesperson for Advanz said: “Advanz Pharma takes competition law very seriously. We totally disagree with the CMA’s decision on the price of liothyronine tablets and will appeal.
“At all times, Advanz Pharma has acted in the best interests of patients, investing significantly to keep this drug on the market in accordance with the specifications required by the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
“In addition, any increase in the price of liothyronine has been pre-notified and agreed in advance and in writing by the Department of Health and Welfare. “
Additional reporting by the Press Association