Pharmaceuticals Pfizer and Flynn Break Law with 2,600% Price Increase for NHS Epilepsy Pills, Says UK Watchdog

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Pharmaceuticals Pfizer and Flynn Break Law with 2,600% Price Increase for NHS Epilepsy Pills, Says UK Watchdog


Two pharmaceutical companies have been accused by the UK’s competition watchdog of illegal prices and abuse of their dominant position to overcharge the NHS for life-saving anti-epileptic tablets.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has stated that it has provisionally noted that coronavirus Vaccine maker Pfizer and Flynn broke competition law by charging unfairly high prices for phenytoin sodium capsules – increasing the cost of treatment by up to 2,600% “overnight.”

It has seen NHS spending on capsules rise from around £ 2million per year in 2012 to around £ 50million in 2013, according to the regulator.

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Thousands of patients depend on the drug for their epilepsy, CMA says

The latest finding comes after the AMC re-examined the case following appeals by the two companies against an earlier ruling in December 2016, which slapped them with a record fine of £ 90million.

In 2018, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) upheld much of the initial findings, but referred the issue of illegal abuse of dominance back to the CMA for further consideration.

The CMA and Flynn then went to the Court of Appeal, which dismissed the drug company’s appeal but upheld certain aspects of the CMA’s case.

Following this, the watchdog decided to re-investigate, launching its current investigation in June 2020.

CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli said: “Thousands of patients depend on this drug to prevent life-threatening epileptic seizures.

“As the CAT has recognized, this is an important issue for government, for the public as patients and taxpayers, and for the pharmaceutical industry itself.

“Protecting these patients, the NHS and the taxpayers who fund it is our priority. “

In its provisional findings, the CMA says the companies exploited a loophole by removing the branding of the drug – known as Epanutin before September 2012 – with the effect that the drug was not subject to price regulation of the same way as brand name drugs.

He said: “As Pfizer and Flynn were the main suppliers of the drug to the UK, the NHS had no choice but to pay unfairly high prices for the vital drug. “

In more than four years, Pfizer’s prices have soared from 780% to 1,600%.

Pfizer then supplied the drug to Flynn, who sold it to wholesalers and pharmacies at prices between 2,300% and 2,600% higher than they had previously paid, according to the CMA.

The CMA said Pfizer and Flynn now have an opportunity to respond to its provisional findings before a final decision is made.

The regulator said it remains committed to its work “to firmly tackle any illegal behavior by drug companies overcharging the NHS”, stressing recently companies fined a total of £ 360 million for competition law infringements relating to the supply of medicines.

In a statement, Pfizer said: “Ensuring a sustainable supply of our products to UK patients is of paramount importance to Pfizer and was central to our decision to divest the product in 2012.

“In 2020, the Court of Appeal confirmed the conclusion of the Competition Appeal Tribunal in favor of the company.

“Pfizer continues to cooperate fully with the ongoing CMA investigation.

“The statement of objections constitutes only the provisional findings of the CMA and all parties will have an opportunity to respond to the statement before the CMA decides whether there has been a violation. ”

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