Lifesaving drug costs NHS 12,000pc more than eight years ago

Posted by Jasmin Stopford in Personal Finance on 19 December 2016 - Jasmin is a Credit Analyst at checkmyfile

Pharmaceutical company, Actavis, has been accused of taking advantage and charging well over the odds for a lifesaving drug that the NHS can’t go without.

The hydrocortisone tablet is used to treat adrenal insufficiency, a life-threatening condition in which adrenal glands do not produce enough natural steroid hormones.

Andrew Groves, of the Competition and Markets Authority, says, “This is a lifesaving drug relied on by thousands of patients, which the NHS has no choice but to continue purchasing. We allege that the company has taken advantage of this situation and the removal of the drug from price regulation, leaving the NHS – and ultimately the taxpayer – footing the bill for the substantial price rises.”

Between 2008 and 2015, the NHS’s spend rose from £522,000 to £70m – an increase of 12,000%. It is estimated that 943,000 packets of the drug were distributed over the last year and due to the immense price increase, one pack equated to £102.74 as of March.

Currently, the findings against Actavis remain provisional and the Competition and Markets Authority says that it’s too early to conclude that there has been a breach of competition law.

It would appear that Actavis aren’t the first as earlier this month, Pfizer and Flynn Pharma were fined nearly £90m for “unfair” pricing, after raising the cost of an anti-epilepsy drug by 2,600%.

As the competition watchdog continues to clamp down on drugs companies overcharging the NHS, these companies have been ordered to drop their prices.

Philip Marsden, of the Competition and Markets authority concludes, “These companies deliberately exploited the opportunity offered by de-branding to hike up the price for a drug which is relied upon by many thousands of patients. These extraordinary price rises have cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.”

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