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Pfizer fined £84mln for epilepsy drug rip-off

In a statement, the CMA said Pfizer ramped up the price of phenytoin sodium capsules by 2,600%
picture of pills
Pfizer upped the price by 2,600% said the CMA

Pfizer has been landed with the largest fine ever issued by the UK Competition Authorities for overcharging the NHS for an anti-epilepsy drug.

The US drugs giant has been ordered to pay £84.2mln while its distributor Flynn has been fined £5.2mln.

In a statement, the CMA said Pfizer ramped up the price of phenytoin sodium capsules by 2,600%, a move that cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.

Philip Marsden, chairman of the CMA’s Case Decision Group said each company broke competition law by charging excessive and unfair prices in the UK for phenytoin sodium capsules. 

“The companies deliberately exploited the opportunity offered by de-branding to hike up the price for a drug which is relied upon by many thousands of patients.

“These extraordinary price rises have cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.”

The CMA has also now ordered the companies to reduce their prices.

Immediately after the drug was debranded in 2012 Pfizer raised the price, the CMA said.

“For example, the amount the NHS was charged for 100mg packs of the drug rocketed from £2.83 to £67.50, before reducing to £54.00 from May 2014.

“As a result of the price increases, NHS expenditure on phenytoin sodium capsules increased from about £2 million a year in 2012 to about £50 million in 2013.”

Pfizer also charges the NHS a much higher price than elsewhere in Europe, according to the watchdog.

Phenytoin sodium capsules are used in the treatment of epilepsy to prevent and control seizures, with an estimated 48,000 UK patients prescribed the treatment.

This in effect is a captive market said the CMA as patients taking the capsules should not be switched to other products.

Prior to 2012, phenytoin sodium capsules were sold to UK wholesalers and pharmacies under the brand name Epanutin through a regulated price regime. 

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Pfizer Timeline

November 23 2015

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