Britain’s competition watchdog has fined Pfizer a record 84.2 million pounds ($106.5 million) for its role in ramping up the cost of an epilepsy drug by as much as 2,600%.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also fined Flynn Pharma 5.2 million pounds for overcharging for phenytoin sodium capsules, following a dramatic price hike in 2012. The CMA had first accused the companies over the matter last year.
As a result of the price increase, spending on the capsules by the National Health Service rose from 2 million pounds a year in 2012 to about 50 million in 2013. The CMA said UK prices for the capsules were many times higher than elsewhere in Europe.
Pfizer used to market the medicine itself, under the brand name Epanutin, but it sold the rights to Flynn, a privately owned British company, in September 2012, after which the product was debranded and the price soared.
The decision to debrand the drug, or make it available as a generic product, meant that it was no longer subject to price regulation.
“The companies deliberately exploited the opportunity offered by debranding to hike up the price for a drug which is relied upon by many thousands of patients,” Philip Marsden, chairman of the CMA’s case decision group, said on Wednesday.
“These extraordinary price rises have cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.”
Pfizer, in a statement, disputed the CMA’s decision and said it planned to appeal all aspects of the verdict.
The US drugmaker said the medicine had been loss-making and it was therefore forced to consider whether it could continue supplying it. Pfizer added that the price set by Flynn was actually 25 to 40 percent less than the cost of an equivalent tablet form of the medicine from another supplier.
No one was immediately available at Flynn for comment.
($1 = 0.7903 pounds)