Competition and Markets Authority accepts £8m from drug firm accused of price fixing

Aspen has been given 20 days to pay the £8m it has offered to the NHS.

The Competition and Markets Authority has warned drug companies against using anti-competitive discount schemes, after investigating discounts offered by the company that manufactures Remicade.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has accepted an offer of £8m to be paid to the NHS by a drug manufacturer as part of an agreement following allegations of anticompetitive behaviour and the supply of a prescription drug.

It is the first time that a payment of this kind has been made, and drug manufacturer Aspen will pay the money within 20 days.

The announcement is the latest move in the ongoing investigation by the CMA into anti-competitive behaviour and the supply of Aspen’s fludrocortisone acetate 0.1mg product, a medicine prescribed for the treatment of Addison’s disease.

As part of its continuing inquiries, the CMA also named two more drug companies on 3 October 2019, which it alleges were involved in signing an illegal agreement with Aspen.

The deal, the CMA says, led to a 1,800% hike in the price charged to the NHS for fludrocortisone acetate 0.1mg.

The companies Amilco and Tiofarma have now been invited to respond to the allegations outlined in the CMA’s statement of objections. The statement also names Aspen, but earlier this summer the company admitted that it took part in this allegedly anti-competitive arrangement.

The statement reveals that the CMA has provisionally found that Tiofarma and Amilco colluded with Aspen by agreeing to stay out of the market so that Aspen could maintain its position as the sole UK supplier of fludrocortisone.

In exchange, it is alleged that Tiofarma was made the sole manufacturer of fludrocortisone for direct sale in the UK, and Amilco received a 30% share of the increased prices that Aspen was able to charge.

In August 2019, Aspen agreed to pay a maximum penalty fine of £2.1m if the CMA’s investigation concluded that there has been an infringement of competition law. It also offered to pay £8m to the NHS.

In a statement, Gus Attridge, deputy group chief executive at Aspen, said: “The CMA’s announcement today does not provide new information but is rather a confirmation of the acceptance of the £8m in commitments proposed by Aspen in August 2019.

“We have offered £8m in commitments to the UK CMA in terms of Article 102 and admitted liability for entering into an agreement to acquire a potential competitor fludrocortisone with the consequence that the conclusion of this agreement resulted in anti-competitive behaviour.”

The CMA said it expected to make a final decision on the case early in 2020. 

Amilco is a UK company which provides consultancy services to drug companies. Tiofarma, which manufactures fludrocortisone acetate is based in the Netherlands. Neither firm was available for comment.



Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2019, Vol 303, No 7930;303(7930):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207153

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