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Drug pricing

CMA accuses four pharmaceutical companies of breaking competition law on supply of antidepressant

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found four pharmaceutical companies to have broken completion law in relation to supply of nortriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant.

King, Auden Mckenzie, Alissa and Lexon were named in a press release published by the CMA on 18 June 2019.

According to the CMA, in 2014, King and Auden Mckenzie agreed to share out supplies of nortriptyline to a “large pharmaceutical wholesaler”, with King supplying only the 25mg tablets and Auden Mckenzie the 10mg version.

The CMA also accused King, Alissa and Lexon of “exchanging commercially sensitive information, including information about prices, volumes and entry plans, to try to keep nortriptyline prices high”.

According to the CMA, NHS spending on nortriptyline was as high as £38m in 2015.

“If pharmaceutical companies get together to restrict competition for the supply of a drug, this can lead to the NHS — and ultimately the UK taxpayer — paying over the odds for what are often essential medical treatments”, said Geoff Steadman, director of antitrust at the CMA.

“We expect drug suppliers to abide by competition law so that the NHS is not denied the opportunity of benefitting from lower prices for medicines.”

The CMA’s findings relating to nortriptyline supply are provisional, and the companies named now have the chance to make representations to the authority before a final decision is made.

On 23 May 2019, Lexon was among the pharmaceutical companies Alliance, Focus and Medreich provisionally found by the CMA to have broken competition law over the sale of an antinausea drug (prochlorperazine 3mg buccal [dissolvable] tablets) to the NHS between June 2013 and July 2018. The case is ongoing.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206695

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