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UK Appeals Tribunal Back Watchdog in Ruling Against Drug Price Hikes

 |  September 20, 2023

The UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal has confirmed the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) findings against drug manufacturers in a hydrocortisone price hike case.

The firms in question have been found to have exploited the lack of NHS price regulation on de-branded drugs and increased the price of 10mg and 20mg hydrocortisone tablets by more than 10,000% compared to the original branded version.

The CAT’s judgment has issued fines against the manufacturer, Auden Mckenzie and Actavis UK – now known as Accord-UK, and its parent companies – for ‘abuse of dominance’ and ‘collusion’, which amounts to almost £130 million.

The Tribunal’s judgement upheld a ruling by the CMA in July 2021 which found that, between April 2008 and March 2016, the cost of a packet of hydrocortisone tablets, a steroid treatment used by tens of thousands of patients had risen from 70p to over £70, resulting in ‘at least’ £145m in ‘illegal profit’.

Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, stated:

“The ‘shocking’ infringements were ‘some of the most serious abuses [we the CMA] had uncovered in recent years'”.

This announcement comes as the CAT last month quashed an appeal by Advanz Pharma, Cinven and HgCapital against the market watchdog’s findings on ‘excessive’ pricing of thyroid hormone deficiency treatment liothyronine.

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Commenting on the CAT’s ruling, a spokesperson for Accord Healthcare said:

“We are very disappointed regarding the judgment. We have done nothing but continuously reduce the price in the face of significant competition since inheriting the product in January 2017”.

Consumer organizations are now expecting the ruling to pave the way for the NHS to seek compensation for the hundreds of millions of pounds it spent on price-inflated drugs.

Chairman of the charity Yellow Card Foundation, Juan Nogueira said:

“This ruling further confirms that drug manufacturers must not behave in a way that erodes the trust of patients. We hope that this ruling will set a precedent, and encourage companies to ensure that their pricing practices are fair and transparent for the patient’s benefit”.

Other leading experts in the field, such as Professor Mike Thompson, chief executive of Research England, have expressed their delight with the judgment, saying:

“This is a great win for NHS England, and a message to those parts of the pharmaceutical industry which fails to serve the best interests of patients that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Source: The Times