- As part of an investigation into the pricing of an epilepsy drug, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has fined Pfizer £10,000 for a "flagrant" violation of rules, Stat reports. Although the fine is trivial for Pfizer, this is reportedly the first time the regulator has levied a fine after recently receiving the authority to do so.
- Pfizer originally marketed phenytoin sodium under the brand name Epanutin, but sold the UK rights to Flynn Pharma in 2012. But Pfizer, which continued to make the drug, increased the price it sold the pills to Flynn by 8 to 17 times historic prices, according to CMA. Flynn subsequently charged UK customers 25 to 27 times historical prices.
- This steep increase in price lead to significantly higher outlays by the U.K.'s NHS. In 2012, NHS spent £2.3 million on the drug. Over the next two years, it spent £90 million buying the generic version from Flynn.
Given how stringent UK health regulators are about assessing value versus costs in efforts to rein in overall spending, the price increase in phenytoin was not likely to go unnoticed.
There are only about 50,000 people in the UK with epilepsy but purchasing the pill began to consume a much larger amount of the National Health Service's drug spend.
The CMA began investigating the price increase in 2013 and issued a statement of objection last summer, saying Pfizer and Flynn Pharma "each abused a dominant position by charging excessive and unfair prices in the UK."
Disputes over follow-up responses in the investigations led to the CMA deciding to levy the fine.
While not financially noteworthy, the investigation and subsequent back-and-forth between regulator and drug company demonstrate the type of price increases which can fly below the radar of the public eye yet lead to increased costs for the system overall.