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Drug pricing

CMA investigates 1,600% price increase of liothyronine over eight-year period

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has refined its window of investigation into the alleged “excessive and unfair pricing” of liothyronine tablets, which it says has seen the NHS overcharged by millions of pounds.

The CMA initially suggested in November 2017 that Advanz Pharma (formerly Concordia) had overcharged the NHS over the course of ten years from before the drug was debranded in 2007 through to July 2017.

During that time, the price per pack of liothyronine tablets, used to treat hypothyroidism, increased by almost 6,000% from £4.46 before it was debranded in 2007 to £258.19 by July 2017.

However, the CMA said in a statement on 30 January 2019 that it has “slightly altered its investigation period”, now provisionally finding that Advanz Pharma “breached UK and EU competition law from at least 1 January 2009 to at least 31 July 2017 by charging excessive and unfair prices” for the medicine.

The statement said within that timeframe “the price paid by the NHS for liothyronine tablets rose from £15.15 to £258.19, a rise of 1,605%, while production costs remained broadly stable” and Advanz remained the only supplier of liothyronine tablets in the UK.

In December 2016, the CMA fined Pfizer and Flynn Pharma £90m for the excessive pricing of the anti-epilepsy treatment, phenytoin sodium capsules.

Advanz Pharma said in a statement: “We take competition law very seriously and do not believe that competition law has been infringed. The pricing of liothyronine has been conducted transparently with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in the UK over a period of ten years, with price increases notified in advance and implemented only after approval from the DHSC.

”Over that time, the company has made significant investment 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.

”We will review the CMA’s updated position as set out in its supplementary statement of objection, and will be responding to it in detail.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206079

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