The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has accused Canadian pharma company Concordia International of abusing its dominant position by increasing the price of a thyroid drug by about 6,000%.
The CMA has provisionally found that Concordia overcharged the NHS by millions for the thyroid drug by increasing the price of a pack of liothyronine tablets from about £4.46 prior to its de-branding in 2007 to £258.19 by July 2017.
The move resulted in an increase of nearly 6,000% although production costs of the tablets largely stayed stable.
As a result of the price hike from Concordia, CMA concluded that the NHS had to spend more than £34m on the liothyronine tablets, reflecting an increase from about £600,000 in 2006.
Liothyronine tablets are mainly used for the treatment of hypothyroidism that affects at least 2 in every 100 people, and if left untreated, could lead to tiredness, depression and weight gain.
CMA stated that although liothyronine tablets are not the main treatment for hypothyroidism, for several patients there is no appropriate alternative. It further said that Concordia was the only supplier of the drug till early 2017.
CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli 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.”
Concordia has denied that there was any infringement of the competition law in the pricing of liothyronine which it says were held openly and transparently with the UK Department of Health over a 10-year period.
The company said: “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.
“We will review the CMA's preliminary position, as set out in its Statement of Objections, and we will be responding to it in detail. We continue to work co-operatively with the CMA as it proceeds with its investigation."
Image: CMA has accused Concordia for abusing its dominant position to overprice an essential thyroid drug. Photo: courtesy of Crown copyright.