Drugmakers Auden McKenzie and Accord UK, formerly Actavis UK, have charged the NHS excessively high prices for hydrocortisone tablets, costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds, according to the Competition and Markets Authority ( CMA).
Hydrocortisone is used to treat inflammation and irritation, often in people whose bodies do not make enough cortisol.
Both companies increased the price of a single packet of tablets from 70p in 2008 to £ 88 in 2016, raising the cost of the drug by more than 10,000%.
“These were blatant violations of the law that artificially inflated the costs facing the NHS, reducing the money available for patient care,” the CMA said.
The regulator added that this was “some of the most serious abuses we have discovered in recent years”, giving the NHS “no choice but to pay huge sums of taxpayer money for life-saving drugs ”.
Auden McKenzie paid rivals in an attempt to dissuade them from releasing their own versions of the drug, allowing the company to retain a monopoly on production, the CMA said.
“To protect its position as the sole supplier of the tablets and allow it to continue to increase prices, Auden McKenzie has also paid potential competitors AMCo (now known as Advanz Pharma) and Waymade to stay out of the market,” said watchdog.
After Auden McKenzie stopped selling the drug, CMA investigators found that Actavis UK continued to reimburse AMCo after resuming sale of the drug in 2015.