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UK watchdog finds drug firms colluded to hike essential NHS medication by 1,800%

Published on 04/10/19 at 10:03am

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that three drug firms signed an illegal agreement which led to huge price hikes for an essential medicine used by the NHS.

The authority has issued a ‘statement of objections' saying that South Africa-based Aspen unlawfully agreed to pay two other firms, Amilco and Tiofarma, to stay out of the UK market for fludrocortisone acetate tablets.

Thousands of patients rely on this drug to treat primary or secondary renal insufficiency commonly known as Addison’s disease.

The CMA have stated that the illegal agreement protected Aspen’s UK monopoly on supply of the drug to the NHS, which thereby gave it the opportunity to increase prices, in some cases by up to 1,800%.

The CMA has also provisionally found that Tiofarma and Amilco colluded with Aspen by agreeing to stay out of the markets o that Aspen could maintain its position as the sole UK supplier of fludrocortisone. In exchange it is alleged that Tiofarma was made the sole manufacturer of fludrocortisone for direct sale in the UK, and Amilco received a 30% share of the increased prices that Aspen was able to charge.

Should the CMA find that there has been a definite infringement; Aspen has agreed to pay the maximum penalty of £2.1 million whilst Amilco and Tiofarma have made no such admission.

Aspen have also payed the NHS £8 million earlier this year as part of a wider package to resolve the competition concerns of the supply of such a vital medicine.

The company has also agreed to commit to ensure that, in future, there will be at least two suppliers of fludrocortisone in the UK, ultimately increasing competition and giving the NHS better value for money when purchasing the medication.

Nik Kiran

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