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New low prices for bipolar drug as agreement reached with DH

The DH and manufacturer Essential Pharma have agreed a new low price for the bipolar drug Priadel, which the company has proposed to supply on DH-agreed terms for five years.

Priadel 200mg will cost £7.50 per pack, while the 400mg version will be priced at £8.50 under the agreement. These prices are “still lower than alternative bipolar drugs”, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in a statement yesterday (November 24).

While both Priadel strengths currently cost £2.76 and £4.02 respectively for 100-tablet packs, there are other more expensive alternatives – such as Camcolit 400mg tablets, also owned by Essential Pharma, which cost £48.18 per pack.

Essential Pharma said yesterday's announcement would provide patients using the drug with "certainty...for years to come”.

“Following our constructive dialogue with the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), the resulting improved pricing now allows us to supply Priadel in the UK on a sustainable, commercially viable basis,” a spokesperson said.

Earlier this year (August 19), Essential Pharma announced it had made the “difficult decision” to discontinue Priadel (lithium carbonate) 200mg and 400mg prolonged-release tablets from April 2021 due to pricing restrictions making the product “no longer viable”.

However, it paused the withdrawal of the bipolar drug last month (October 6) as the (CMA) launched an investigation into the manufacturer for “suspected anti-competitive practices in the supply of drugs used to treat bipolar disorder”.

Formal commitments made

Essential Pharma has submitted “formal commitments” to the CMA in response to the competition concerns it raised for Priadel, the watchdog said yesterday.

The commitments would be valid for five years and would see Essential Pharma continuing to supply Priadel on the terms agreed with the DH, which means “the company cannot threaten to withdraw Priadel in order to increase the price without good reason”.

A spokesperson for Essential Pharma told C+D yesterday: “We welcome the decision by the CMA to close its investigation, subject to acceptance of our commitments."

The CMA is consulting on the commitments Essential Pharma has made and is inviting stakeholders to submit their views by December 9. If the watchdog accepts Essential Pharma’s proposals, it will close its investigation into the manufacturer.

“Victory for patients”

Twelve healthcare bodies, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), wrote to health secretary Matt Hancock on September 22, asking him to "personally intervene" in the proposed withdrawal of the Priadel brand of lithium carbonate.

Commenting on the newly agreed Priadel price, RPS President Sandra Gidley said: “This is a victory for patients, the NHS and the public purse.

“We’re delighted that negotiations on the price of Priadel have come to this positive conclusion for patients with bipolar disorder. They will now be able to remain on the drug that keeps them stable.”

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