Drug Middlemen Price Gouging in UK: Pfizer Fined £84m Fine for Hiking Price of Generic Epilepsy Drug | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Pfizer's decision to ramp up the price of its epilepsy drug phenytoin sodium has earned it a record-breaking fine from the UK authorities.


The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has levied an £84.2m fine on Pfizer - as well as a £5.2m penalty for distributor Flynn Pharma - saying they hiked the price of the drug up to 2,600% overnight in September 2012. Pfizer said it "refutes the findings" and will appeal.


The allegations centre on Pfizer's sale of its branded product sold as Epanutin to Flynn at that time, which promptly genericised the drug, freeing it from price regulation.


Pfizer continued to sell the product to Flynn at a sizeable mark-up than its previous prices, and Flynn sold it on to pharmacies and wholesalers "charging them prices which have been between 2,300% and 2,600% higher than those they had previously paid for the drug".


As a result the amount the NHS was charged for 100mg packs of the drug rocketed from £2.83 to £67.50, before reducing to £54.00 from May 2014, pushing up NHS spending on the drug from around £2m a year to £50m. 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,” says the CMA in its judgment.


The case suggests that massive price hikes for off-patent drugs - particularly those with few alternatives - may not only be a phenomenon in the US, where Turing Pharma's 5,000% increase for toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine) prompted a public outcry and scrutiny of pharma practices last year.