Pfizer epilepsy drug prices were 'unfairly high,' UK review findsBy Pushkala Aripaka

Britain’s competition watchdog is sticking with its view that Pfizer and Flynn Pharma broke the law by charging Britain’s public health service “unfairly high” prices for an epilepsy drug, after being asked to reassess a record fine.

The drugmakers made use of a loophole so that the capsules, branded Epanutin prior to September 2012, were not subject to price regulation for branded drugs, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found in its provisional review. In 2016, the CMA fined Pfizer and Flynn a record 90 million pounds ($125 million) for the price hike. However, the companies in 2018 won an appeal against the penalty, and the Competition Appeal Tribunal referred the matter back to the CMA.

The CMA said that spending by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) on the capsules, containing phenytoin sodium, jumped to roughly 50 million pounds in 2013 from about 2 million pounds just a year earlier.

“As Pfizer and Flynn were the dominant suppliers of the drug in the UK, the NHS had no choice but to pay unfairly high prices for this vital medicine,” the CMA said in a statement after it gathered more evidence and reviewed its previous case.

Pfizer and Flynn did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. The CMA has said the companies can respond to its findings before a formal decision is reached.

The cost of a 100mg pack of phenytoin sodium had jumped as much as 2,600% to 67.50 pounds before prices were reduced slightly to 54 pounds apiece from May 2014, the regulator said in its 2016 order.

The CMA has been cracking down on drug price hikes in Britain. Last month, it fined more than 10 drug firms. A record 260 million pounds in total for a 10,000% surge in prices of a life-saving steroid.

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