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UK governments settle legal case with Reckitt Benckiser over Gaviscon

Gaviscon Liquid

The competition issues relating to Gaviscon supplies go back to 2010.

The health ministries of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reached a “full and final” settlement with Reckitt Benckiser over the company’s decision to withdraw its off-patent Gaviscon Original Liquid from prescription on the NHS to the advantage of its alternative product still under patent.

The patent for Gaviscon Original Liquid ended in 1997 and its withdrawal from the NHS prescription channel took place in 2005, ahead of publication of its generic name in prescribing systems. Any subsequent searches for “Gaviscon” would identify Gaviscon Advance Liquid — which is patent protected until 2016 — and not Gaviscon Original Liquid, for which alternatives can be prescribed.

In 2010, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) fined Reckitt Benckiser £10.2m after it concluded the company abused its dominant market position. Civil claims for damages from the health authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland ensued.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government says that it cannot disclose the “sums” involved in the settlement because of the nature of the undisclosed agreement. The Department of Health in England reached a similar agreement in February 2014.

Reckitt Benckiser’s 2013 annual report notes that the company is involved in certain competition law-related proceedings with pharmaceutical companies and with several countries. The report says that the company has put aside £225m to deal with “competition matters”.

Reckitt Benckiser declined to comment on the Gaviscon market in the UK.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138558

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