UK fines Pfizer and Flynn Pharma record £84m for abuse of position

Pfizer and Flynn Pharma were fined a record amount for abusing their dominant position in the UK by charging unfair prices for unbranded versions of the Epanutin anti-epilepsy drug.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority fined Pfizer £84.2m (€99.7m) and Flynn Pharma £5.2m after they rose prices by as much as 2,600% in September 2012, the regulator has said.

The price increases occurred after Pfizer transferred distribution rights to Flynn, which sold the medicine by its generic name, phenytoin sodium.

A Pfizer spokeswoman here said the same drug was sold in Ireland, but Pfizer was unable to respond to questions at the time of going to press about prices for the drug in Ireland in recent years. The drugs giant employs about 3,300 people at six sites in Ireland.

“The 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,” said Philip Marsden, chairman of the UK’s Case Decision Group for the CMA’s investigation.

“These extraordinary price rises have cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.”

Britain’s National Health Service spent about £50m on the anti-epilepsy capsules in 2013 and £40m 2014, the CMA said. The amount the NHS was charged for 100mg packs of the drug “rocketed” from £2.83 to £67.50, before dropping to £54 in May 2014, the CMA said yesterday. Pfizer said it “refutes” the findings of the regulator. Both companies said they will appeal.

“Phenytoin capsules were a loss-making product for Pfizer and the Flynn transaction represented an opportunity to secure ongoing supply of an important medicine for patients with epilepsy, while maintaining continuity of manufacture,” the company said.

“When Flynn launched its product, the company set a price that was between 25% and 40% less than the price of the equivalent medicine from another supplier to the NHS... and appeared to be acceptable to, the department of health.”

A Flynn spokesman said the CMA had “ignored or misunderstood” important aspects of its investigation.


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