Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said on Thursday that it has imposed a £2.1m (R45m) fine on Aspen Pharmacare for entering into an illegal agreement that allowed it to hike the price of a life-saving drug.

Aspen said in August that it had reached a settlement and admitted liability for entering into an agreement relating to the supply of fludrocortisone in the UK, which is used to treat adrenal insufficiency.

Three companies, Aspen, Tiofarma, and Amilco, have now admitted to taking part in an anti-competitive agreement, the CMA said. After the agreement was struck, the price of fludrocortisone supplied to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) increased by up to 1,800%.

Aspen reached an agreement with the CMA in August, with the £2.1m being the maximum penalty that could be imposed. The CMA said on Thursday the settlement sum had been paid. 

The UK competition authorities had launched the investigation in 2017, investigating the supply of two drugs, fludrocortisone and dexamethasone, although the probe into the latter was later dropped.

Fludrocortisone is a prescription-only medicine mainly used to treat primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency, commonly known as Addison’s Disease. It is paid for by the NHS and so, ultimately, by UK taxpayers, the CMA said.

The CMA found that Amilco and Tiofarma agreed to stay out of the fludrocortisone market so that Aspen could maintain its position as the sole supplier in the UK.

In exchange, Amilco received a 30% share of the increased prices Aspen was able to charge, and Tiofarma was given the right to be the sole manufacturer of the drug for direct sale in the UK.

Aspen said on Thursday that the penalty has brought the matter to a close.

In afternoon trade, the group’s share was down 2.73% to R145.14..

Update: July 9 2020 
This article has been updated with additional information throughout.

gernetzkyk@businesslive.co.za

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