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Lexon must pay £1.2m as CMA nortriptyline probe upheld

Lexon was accused, along with two other wholesalers, of colluding to keep nortriptyline prices up
Lexon was accused, along with two other wholesalers, of colluding to keep nortriptyline prices up

The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has dismissed Lexon (UK)’s appeal of a CMA fine and investigation, which said the company broke the law over the supply of nortriptyline.

Through an investigation carried out last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded that King Pharmaceuticals, Auden Mckenzie, Lexon (UK) and Alissa Healthcare broke the law in relation to the supply of nortriptyline, a drug that is used to relieve the symptoms of depression.

Lexon (UK) argued that it “had not broken the law and so appealed against the decision and the fine”, the CMA said in a statement published yesterday (February 25).

However, the CAT “unanimously dismissed” Lexon UK’s claims in a judgement published yesterday. It agreed with the CMA’s findings and with the £1,220,383 fine the CMA had asked Lexon to pay on March 4 last year.

C+D approached Lexon (UK) yesterday, but a spokesperson said the company preferred not to comment.

Exchange of commercially sensitive information

The CMA investigation found that, between 2015 and 2017, King Pharmaceuticals, Lexon (UK) and Alissa Healthcare colluded to keep the nortriptyline prices up by “exchanging commercially sensitive information” about prices for the tablets, “the volumes they were supplying and Alissa’s plans to enter the market”.

Both King Pharmaceuticals and Alissa admitted to breaking the law, with the former being fined £75,573 and Alissa Healthcare fined £174,912.

However, Lexon (UK) did not admit to breaking the law and on May 12 last year, it filed an appeal to the CAT against the CMA’s finding and the more than £1.2m sanction it had been asked to pay.

Penalty “amply justified”

In its assessment of the penalty imposed on Lexon UK, the CAT said it finds “a penalty of some £1.2m in a business where Lexon (UK) realised very substantial profits over a significant period in clear breach of the law to be amply justified”.

Commenting on the CAT’s decision, CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli said: “Lexon illegally exchanged competitively-sensitive information to try and keep prices up, meaning the NHS – and ultimately the UK taxpayer – could have been paying over the odds for this important drug.

“Such behaviour is unacceptable. We will continue to crack down on companies that seek to break the law and will be keeping a close eye on this sector,” he added.

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