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Actavis brokered deal to maintain high hydrocortisone prices

Actavis UK remained sole supplier of hydrocortisone tablets until 2015

A government watchdog has alleged that manufacturers Actavis UK and Concordia worked together to artificially maintain an inflated price for hydrocortisone tablets.

According to a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation, between January 2013 and June 2016 the two companies agreed that Concordia (formerly Amdipharm) would not enter the market with its own version of hydrocortisone tablets.

In exchange, Concordia received a fixed supply of Actavis UK’s 10mg tablets at a “very low price”, which it then resold to customers in the UK, the CMA alleged in a statement last Friday (March 3).

Actavis UK remained the “sole supplier” of hydrocortisone tablets from 2008-15, said the CMA, which noted that the cost of these tablets to the NHS rose from £49 in 2013 to £88 in 2016.

The watchdog "provisionally" found that both companies broke competition law by entering into "these anti-competitive agreements", and confirmed it has sent both parties a statement of objections.

The CMA alleged the agreements "enabled Actavis UK to prolong the high [drug] prices in the market" and “deprived the NHS of the significant price falls that would be expected to result from true competition”.

However, the watchdog stressed that these are “provisional findings” and “no conclusion should be drawn at this stage”.

Manufacturers' response

In response to the allegations, Concordia said “the supply arrangement” between the companies “was not in breach of competition law”.

“We will review the CMA's provisional position…and then intend to respond in detail to it,” it added.

The manufacturer – which acquired Amdipharm in October 2015 – pointed out that the CMA's statement of objections “includes matters that pre-date Concordia's ownership of [Amdipharm]".

In a statement on behalf of Actavis UK, Teva – which acquired the generics company in August 2016 – confirmed that Actavis UK has been accused of anti-competitive conduct.

“Although Actavis UK was acquired by Teva in August 2016, it has subsequently been divested to Accord Healthcare Limited (a subsidiary of Intas Pharmaceuticals Limited) and has never in practice been controlled by Teva,” it said.

Both companies have until May 2017 to respond to the statement of objections.

The CMA can fine any business that infringes competition law up to 10% of its annual worldwide group turnover.

Other drug pricing investigations

Have you noticed the price of debranded drugs increase in recent years?

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Probably the tip of the iceberg. Though it is a business, and the aim is to make money (something we sometimes seem to forget in pharmacy) so IF it's legal then fair dues and buyer beware. Since the NHS are their biggest customer, shouldn't they be a bit more on the ball? Or are they too busy finding reasons not to pay out for FP10s, doing probity visits for MURs, coming up with audits for us to do, etc.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

The alimemazine, amantadine, clonazepam, dicycloverine, disulfiram, fludrocortisone, fusidic acid m/r, liothyronine, olsalazine, primidone, prochlorperazine buccal, prednisolone soluble, trimipramine, trifluoperazine shaped iceberg...

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Yep, that would be the one. Just wish I could do the same with my 32p paracetamol!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

The only surprise is what they did it with. Why not pull a fiddle with something which is actually used?

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

Zipperdeedoodah Zipperdeeyay my oh my what a wonderful day
Plenty of money coming my way
Zipperdeedoodah Zipperdeeyay

R A, Community pharmacist

Top marks for the government picking up on this now after several years! It makes you wonder when they will realise public are being deprived of choice through the rise of multiples?

ben stokes, Student

Where's the competition when two companies control 50% of the NHS market LOL

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

It's called a business deal..! 

David Kent, Community pharmacist

I hope that any pharmacists in positions in these companies which are shown to be complicit in this scandal are brought before the GPHC for bringing the profession into disrepute.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Yeah, hang the pharmacist out to dry as usual. Why not the directors or accountant?

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