Hydrocortisone tablets are prescribed to people whose adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones, such as those suffering from Addison’s disease. About 1m prescriptions of the drug were distributed last year.
Two drugs firms have been accused by the competition watchdog of making illegal deals in order to inflate the price for the life-saving hydrocortisone tablets in the UK.
It is alleged that Actavis UK incentivised its rival Concordia not to enter the market with its own version of the tablets so that it could remain the sole supplier of the drug in the UK and charge higher prices. The CMA alleges that Actavis supplied Concordia, formerly Amdipharm, with a fixed supply of its own 10mg hydrocortisone tablets for a very low price. Concordia then resold the product to customers in the UK. Actavis remained the sole supplier of the tablets in the UK during most of this period, and because the drug was generic, it was not subject to price regulation.
The agreements were made between January 2013 and June 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) claimed, and enabled Actavis to increase the price it charged the NHS by 80% over the period from £49 to £88 per pack.
Andrew Groves, the CMA’s senior responsible officer for the investigation, said:
“We allege these agreements were intended to keep Actavis UK as the sole supplier of a drug relied on by thousands of patients – and in a position which could allow it to dictate and prolong high prices.”
Actavis was already under investigation by the regulator, accused of overcharging the NHS for the tablets, after hiking prices by 12,000% over the course of several years. Prices rose from 70p a pack in April 2008 to £88 by March 2016.