- Consumer watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found drug company Concordia overcharged the NHS by millions for an essential thyroid drug.
- The findings are pending further investigation, and the CMA has not yet ruled Concordia broke competition law.
- Concordia denies wrongdoing and said it is cooperating with the investigation.
LONDON – Consumer watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that drug company Concordia abused its dominant position to overcharge the NHS by millions for an essential thyroid drug.
In an investigation into pricing, the CMA found the NHS spent more than £34 million last year on liothyronine tablets, an increase from around £600,000 in 2006. The amount Concordia charged per pack rose from around £4.45 before it was de-branded in 2007, to £258.19 in July this year. This increase of almost 6,000% came despite the fact that production costs remained “broadly stable,” the CMA found.
“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,” said Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive.
“We allege that Concordia used its market dominance in the supply of liothyronine tablets to do exactly that,” she said.
The CMA’s findings are provisional, pending further investigation, and the watchdog has not yet ruled Concordia breached competition law.
Liothyronine tablets are used to treat hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, a condition that affects at least two in every 100 people and can lead to depression, tiredness and weight gain. The tablets are not the primary treatment for the condition but are the only available option for many patients. Until earlier this year, Concordia was the only supplier.
Concordia said in a statement, “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 ten 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.”
“We will review the CMA’s preliminary position, as set out in its Statement of Objections, and we will be responding to it in detail. We continue to work co-operatively with the CMA as it proceeds with its investigation,” the company said.
In December last year, the CMA fined Pfizer and Flynn Pharma nearly £90 million for charging excessive and unfair prices for an anti-epilepsy treatment, a judgment the companies are currently appealing.
The CMA also fined a number of pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, a total of £45 million for breaching competition law in the sale of anti-depressant drug paroxetine. This decision is also being appealed.