Pfizer fined for 2,600% price hike

Pfizer has been fined £84.2 million by the UK's competition regulator after the drug giant supplied the NHS an anti-epilepsy drug at  2,600-per cent price hike.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which issued its biggest fine said the ''extraordinary price rises have cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds''.

The drugs distributor Flynn Pharma was also fined  £5.2 million for charging excessive and unfair prices in the UK for phenytoin sodium capsules, which were being used by an estimated 48,000 epilepsy patients in the UK for the prevention and cure of seizures. Both had been asked by the CMA to cut their prices.

The CMA's findings were rejected by US-based Pfizer and both companies said they would appeal against the decision.

The CMA has been carrying out four other investigations into the pharma industry, of which at least one pertained to excessive pricing. 

The CMA said, the fines followed an overnight price hike of up to 2,600 per cent for the drug, after it was deliberately debranded. Pfizer makes the drug and sells it to Flynn, which in turn sells it to the NHS.

"Businesses are generally free to set prices as they see fit but those holding a dominant position should not abuse this situation and set prices that are excessive and unfair," Philip Marsden, chairman of the CMA's case decision group for the investigation, said in a statement issued with the announcement.

Pfizer has been given from 30 working days to four months to cut prices for the drug. The regulator added it would be allowed to charge prices that were profitable but not excessive.

Pfizer refuted the CMA's findings in a formal statement , adding the medication was "a loss making product" for the company. The fine and ruling "highlights real policy and legal issues concerning the respective roles of both the Department of Health and the CMA, in regulating the price of pharmaceutical products in the UK," Pfizer added.