After an investigation, the British competition authority CMA has fined a series of pharmaceutical companies more than 260 million pounds for overpriced medicines. As a result, the UK health service NHS has overpaid for hydrocortisone tablets for nearly a decade.
The regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, fined Auden Mckenzie and Accord-UK (formerly known as Actavis), Allergan, Intas Pharmaceuticals, Waymade Healthcare, Amdipharm, Advanz Pharma and some parts of investment company Cinven.
According to the regulator, the companies bought up potential competitors to keep them out of the market and drive up prices. They also bought off competitors. Auden Mckenzie and Accord jointly receive the bulk of the fine, £221.1 million.
According to the watchdog, the companies charged “excessively high prices” for the hydrocortisone tablets, up nearly 10,000 percent. In practice, the NHS once had to pay more than £80 for a box of tablets that previously cost less than £1, the watchdog writes on the website. Before 2008 the NHS paid around half a million pounds a year for the tablets; by 2016, that amount had risen to more than £80 million.
“These were blatant violations of the law that artificially inflated the costs of the NHS, leaving less money for patient care. This fine serves as a warning to other pharmaceutical companies planning to exploit the NHS,” said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.
Hydrocortisone, also known as cortisol, is an adrenal cortex hormone. The drugs are used for a deficiency of cortisol due to adrenal gland disease.