It’s been discovered by the CMA that the Canadian drug company Concordia has overcharged the NHS by over £100m over the last ten years for the drug liothryonine. According the competition watchdog, Concordia have “abused its dominant position to overcharge the NHS”, by increasing the price it’s been charging for the drug by almost 6000% between 2007 and 2017.
Liothyronine is commonly used by the NHS for the treatment of hypothyroidism, a condition caused by underactive thyroid. It affects at least 2% of the population and can lead to lack of energy and weight gain. Until this year, Concordia was the exclusive supplier of the drug to the NHS.
The CMA claims that over £34 million was spent on the drug last year alone, which is a massive increase on the spending in 2006 of just over £600,000. The cost of each pack has risen from £4.46 in 2007 to £258.19 this year. It’s possible that Concordia could face a fine of up to 10% of its annual turnover.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA said: “Pharmaceutical companies which abuse their position and overcharge for drugs are forcing the NHS – and the UK taxpayer – to pay over the odds for important medical treatments. We allege that Concordia used its market dominance in the supply of liothyronine tablets to do exactly that.”
“At this stage in the investigation, our findings are provisional and there has been no definitive decision that there has been a breach of competition law. We will carefully consider any representations from the companies before deciding whether the law has in fact been broken.”
Concordia said it’s investing the allegations, but added that: “We do not believe that competition law has been infringed. The pricing of liothyronine has been conducted openly and transparently with the Department of Health in the UK over a period of 10 years“
“Over that time, significant investment has been made in this medicine to ensure its continued availability for patients in the UK, to the specifications required by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK.”
The British Thyroid Foundation commented that: “There are many thyroid patients who have told us that this medicine makes a huge difference to their lives and the enormous price rise has caused significant confusion and distress. We look forward to the CMA’s final decision and very much hope that it will lead to an improvement in care for patients with hypothyroidism.”
Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry added that: “We fully support the CMA in taking action in cases of proven abuse of market power. We also continue to support the government in taking policy steps to ensure such abuses cannot happen in the future. This case is yet to conclude, but we do not – and will not – support any company found to have intentionally exploited the NHS.”