One of the UK’s biggest high street retailers, Boots, is now faced with the accusation that they overcharged the NHS for a specific mouthwash that is generally used to treat cancer patients. The owner of Boots has out-right rejected this claims and continues to insist that Boots have never overcharged. The Times newspaper carried out the investigation in this area and conformed that Boots charged the NHS a total of £3,220 for the medicinal mouthwash. It also advocated that this mouthwash can cost £93.
The Walgreen Boots Alliance are adamant in that their company have complied with the law and never charged extortionate amounts for products to the NHS. With all this coming to light the England’s NHS has stated that pharmacies in particular should seek to find the absolute best value. This is while other ministers have asked the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) to investigate into this situation.
The mouthwash in question is regularly used by chemotherapy patients as it is used to treat sores that occur as a side effect to the treatment. It is widely known and classified amongst a ‘specials’ group of drugs. Specials are classified as unlicensed medicines for non-standard treatments, they are specifically designed and used to help patients who have undergone clinical treatment.
As per their investigation, The Times found that Boots has been secretly benefitting from a legal loophole, in which their suppliers are able to set their own prices and demands for the drugs. So, technically, they are within their rights to set their own price for the drugs at their own discretion. The mouthwash in question had been ordered from the Alliance Healthcare which is a supply owner for Boots’ parent company. From the period of 2013 to 2017 the papers indicate that Boots were charging £3,219 for just thee 200ml bottles. As well as this, they charged £3,220 for the same. Then £1843 for a 800ml treatment, £1,989 for 800ml and finally £6,374.25 for 2,600ml. Meanwhile the main competitive pharmacies were charging substantially less.
Boots have since hit back with a statement from a Walgreens Boots Alliance spokesperson. They said “We firmly reject accusations of overcharging the NHS, Our senior company leaders have already recently met with officials from the Department of Health to discuss the specials products. An extremely small proportion of the total items dispensed in the UK.”.
The Times report states that “Walgreens Boots Alliance has not disputed the figures, but says it has not overcharged the health service. The company said the bespoke nature of specials – often ordered at short notice – results in the final cost.”. The Walgreens Boots Alliance fired back advocating that they have not overstepped the line and that everything they have done has been carried out legally without overcharging anyone. More inquiries and reports are currently being carried out that we must wait for, however the facts and figures of the Times report don’t lie. It is more a moral issue more than a legal one as it seems, so far, that they cannot be faulted from that direction.