Drugs giant fined nearly £85m for hiking up price of NHS drug

Pfizer's distribution base in New Lane, Havant
Pfizer's distribution base in New Lane, Havant

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A DRUGS firm have been fined nearly £85m after substantially hiking the price of an anti-epilepsy drug to the NHS.

US-Based Pfizer, who employ 270 people at their packaging and distribution base in Havant, have been handed a record £84.2m fine by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The CMA say the drugs giant and its distributor Flynn Pharma broke competition law when they increased the cost of a medicine used by around 48,000 patients in the UK.

The watchdog claims the NHS were asked to pay £50m for phenytoin sodium capsules in 2013 - an increase of up to 2,600 per cent from the price tag of £2m a year in 2012.

Stevenage-based Flynn Pharma have been fined £5.2m for their role.

The medicine is used by around 48,000 patients in the UK and following the mammoth fine, the CMA have ordered both firms to reduce their prices for the anti-epilepsy drug.

Pfizer announced last month that it would leave its distribution base in New Lane, Havant, by 2020, which came four years after the firm revealed it had injected £42m into the location since moving in back in 2009.

The CMA state that the drug was sold back in September 2012 under the brand name Epanutin and the prices of the drug were regulated but when Pfizer sold the UK distribution rights for Epanutin to Flynn Pharma that same month, the drug was de-branded - meaning it was no longer subject to price regulation.

This led to both firms ramping up the price of the drug - with 100mg packs of the drug jumping from £2.83 to £67.50.

Philip Marsden, chairman of the case decision group for the CMA’s investigation said: ‘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.

‘The extraordinary price rises have cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.

‘This is the highest fine the CMA has imposed and it sends out a clear message.’

Pfizer have rejected the findings and plan to appeal the decision.

A spokesperson said: ‘In this transaction, and in all of our business operations, we approached this divestment with integrity, and believe it fully complies with establish competition law.’

Flynn Pharma will also appeal with David Fakes, its chief executive, saying ‘it is a matter of common interest for us to appeal.’