London: Britain's competition watchdog said Wednesday it had fined Pfizer 84 million after the US pharmaceutical giant hiked massively the price of an anti-epilepsy drug, heavily impacting the tax-funded National Health Service.
"The Competition and Markets Authority has imposed a record 84.2 million ($106.3 million, 99.1 million euros) fine on... Pfizer, and a ?5.2 million fine on the distributor Flynn Pharma after finding that each broke competition law by charging excessive and unfair prices in the UK for phenytoin sodium capsules," the CMA said in a statement.
The watchdog also ordered the pair to reduce their prices.In a separate statement, Pfizer said it "refutes the findings" and would lodge an appeal.
The CMA said the fines followed "prices increasing by up to 2,600 percent overnight after the drug was deliberately de-branded in September 2012", meaning it was no longer subject to price regulation.
As a result, National Health Service expenditure on phenytoin sodium capsules increased from about 2 million a year in 2012 to about ?50 million in 2013, the watchdog claimed.
"The prices of the drug in the UK have also been many times higher than Pfizer's prices for the same drug in any other European country," it added.
The CMA said phenytoin sodium capsules are used to prevent and control seizures for around 48,000 patients in the UK.
But since epilepsy patients who take the capsules are advised not to switch to other products owing to possible loss of seizure control, the NHS had no choice but to pay the increases, it added.
"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, who chaired the CMA investigation's decision group.
"These extraordinary price rises have cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds," he added....