Wednesday 14 August 2019 8:43 am

Aspen pays out £8m to NHS in antitrust probe

Aspen Pharmacare has agreed to pay £8m to the NHS as part of a settlement with the competition watchdog after admitting it made an anti-competitive deal with two other companies.

The drug maker has accepted it formed an “illegal, anti-competitive agreement” when it entered into an agreement with two rivals in 2016.

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Against payment, they agreed to stay out of the market for fludrocortisone, a key drug in treating Addison’s Disease.

This left Aspen the sole supplier of the drug, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said this morning, allowing it to set the price without competition.

The £8m is the first payout to the NHS secured by the watchdog, said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.

“We consider it unacceptable for the NHS – and the taxpayers who fund it – to have to pay millions of pounds more than they should for this life-saving drug,” she said.

“The £8 million Aspen has agreed to provide will save the NHS the time and expense of seeking damages in court. Importantly, Aspen has also committed to ensuring there are more competitors in this market, giving the NHS the opportunity to secure better value for UK taxpayers’ money in the future,” Coscelli added.

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Aspen will also be forced to pay a maximum fine of £2.1m if the CMA concludes that it has broken the law. It cannot determine whether a cartel was formed until one of the two other companies – so far unnamed – admits to its role, or is found guilty.

“We continue to investigate the two other companies we suspect illegally participated in this arrangement,” Coscelli said.