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UK drug price gouging is getting worse

I read with interest John Rother’s letter on drug price gouging in the United States. Unfortunately this behaviour is also prevalent in the UK.

A number of medicines have been available as proprietary products, discontinued by the manufacturer and almost immediately replaced by an identical generic equivalent. I highlighted this in 2015 (The Pharmaceutical Journal 19 September 2015, p245) and formally notified the UK Competition and Markets Authority of this behaviour. Since then, we have seen several more examples of this, potentially costing the NHS vast sums of money:

  • Lithium carbonate 250mg tablets: from £3.22 for 100 as Camcolit in October 2015 to £48.18 for 100 in September 2016 as the Essential Pharma brand;
  • Nitrazepam 2.5mg oral suspension: from £5.30 for 150ml as Somnite in October 2015 to £114.00 for 70ml in September 2016 as the Essential Pharma brand;
  • Nefopam 30mg tablets: from £10.59 for 90 as Acupan in October 2015 to £66.70 for 90 in September 2016 as the Concordia (Focus) brand;
  • Oxybutynin 2.5mg oral solution: from £6.88 for 150ml as Ditropan in October 2015 to £144.50 for 150ml in September 2016 as Thame Laboratories brand.

In addition, several medicines already affected by this behaviour have had their prices increased even more:

  • Trimipramine 50mg capsules: from £59.60 for in October 2015 to £190.00 for 28 in September 2016 as the Zentiva or Concordia (Focus) brand;
  • Alimemazine 10mg tablets: from £27.86 for 28 in October 2015 to £102.59 for 28 in September 2016 as the Zentiva brand;
  • Olsalazine 250mg capsules: from £75.00 for 112 in October 2015 to £144.00 for 112 in September 2016 as the Atnahs brand;
  • Doxepin 50mg capsules: from £84.00 in October 2015 to £154.00 in September 2016 as the Atnahs brand.

Again, I would like the manufacturers named (according to the Electronic Medicines Compendium) to clarify the reasons for these price increases.

Thankfully, the government is now looking to act to try to control this behaviour with an amendment to NHS legislation. Regrettably, changing legislation can be a lengthy process. As such I am interested to know the Department of Health’s more immediate plans to control what seems to be a way of profiteering from already strained NHS funds.

Ben Merriman

Barrow-in-Furness,

Cumbria

  • The views contained within this correspondence do not reflect the views of the Pharmaceutical Journal

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201795

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