The Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) is consulting on proposed commitments from Essential Pharma to keep a key bipolar drug on the market and ensure it is affordable to the NHS.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a competition law investigation into Essential Pharma last month because of suspicions that the firm may have abused its dominant position by proposing to withdraw the supply of the bipolar drug, Priadel, to UK patients. If Priadel was withdrawn, this would require patients to switch to alternative, more expensive treatments such as Camcolit, which is also owned by Essential Pharma.
Following the opening of the CMA’s investigation, Essential Pharma paused the withdrawal of Priadel and entered into price negotiations with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). This has resulted in a recent agreement with the DHSC on a revised price for Priadel that is still lower than alternative bipolar drugs.
Essential Pharma has now also offered formal commitments to the CMA to address competition concerns regarding its strategy in relation to Priadel. These proposed commitments would last for 5 years and include continuing to supply Priadel on terms agreed with the DHSC. It would mean that the company cannot threaten to withdraw Priadel in order to increase the price without good reason.
The CMA’s preliminary view is that the proposed commitments meet its competition concerns and is now seeking views from others before accepting them formally. If accepted, the commitments will bring the investigation to an end.
Ann Pope, the CMA’s Senior Director of Antitrust, said:
“Since the CMA intervened just last month, Essential Pharma has agreed to carry on supplying Priadel at a price agreed with the DHSC, which we hope will give peace of mind to the thousands of patients who rely on it.
“We will carefully consider any responses to the consultation on the proposed commitments offered by Essential Pharma before reaching our final decision, with the best protection for patients in mind.”
The CMA is inviting stakeholders to submit any comments on the commitments by 9 December 2020, before it reaches its final decision on whether or not to accept them.
The investigation by the CMA is ongoing and no decision has been made as to whether the law has been broken. However, if the commitments are accepted by the CMA, they will become legally binding, which means Essential Pharma cannot choose to retract them.
RPS President Sandra Gidley said: “This is a victory for patients, the NHS and the public purse.
“We’re delighted that negotiations on the price of Priadel have come to this positive conclusion for patients with bipolar disorder. They will now be able to remain on the drug that keeps them stable.
“In the future companies must be prevented from exploiting the system to better support patient care and the NHS.”
More information can be found on the CMA’s investigation into supply of lithium-based medication case page.
This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.