Canadian Drug firm accused of overcharging NHS by £100M

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the UK regulator responsible for preventing and anti-competitive behaviour, has accused the Canadian generic pharmaceuticals manufacturer Concordia International of overcharging the NHS by £100 million over a ten year period for the life-changing thyroid drug liothyronine.

The CMA said that Concordia had “abused its dominant position to overcharge the NHS” by increasing the price of liothyronine by close to 6000% over a ten year period starting in 2007. During this period the amount the NHS paid for a pack of 28 tablets climbed from £4.46 to £258.19.

Liothyronine, which is used to treat patients with an underactive thyroid, is a synthetic version of the hormone T3 and is offered to patients that have not responded well to the cheaper drug levothyroxine. Concordia is the only manufacturer to offer the drug in the UK, meaning the NHS has been left with no choice but to pay the grossly inflated prices.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief executive of the CMA said: “Pharmaceutical companies which abuse their position and overcharge for drugs are forcing the NHS – and the UK taxpayer – to pay over the odds for important medical treatments. We allege that Concordia used its market dominance in the supply of liothyronine tablets to do exactly that.”

Concordia International and two private equity firms, Cinven and HgCapital, that used to own Amdipharm Mercury which was bought by Concordia in 2015 have been asked to respond to the allegations.

In response, Concordia released a statement saying it would review the findings, but added: “We do not believe that competition law has been infringed. The pricing of liothyronine has been conducted openly and transparently with the Department of Health in the UK over a period of 10 years.”

“Over that time, significant investment has been made in this medicine to ensure its continued availability for patients in the UK, to the specifications required by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK.”

Concordia obviously likes to keep its generic pharma antitrust law firm busy, because this is the second time in a year that the firm has found itself in the sights of a CMA investigation. Back in March, the regulator alleged that the company had taken incentives from Actavis UK not to launch a generic form of hydrocortisone in the UK. This illegal deal allowed Actavis to inflate the price of hydrocortisone by over 80%, with the price per pack increasing from £49 to £88 during the period.

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