latest health care news


NHS overcharged over £34m for essential medicine

The NHS has been overcharged millions for an essential medication, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has declared.

Last year the NHS spent over £34m on liothyronine tablets - a stark increase from the £600,000 it paid for it in 2006.

The CMA has been investigating how much pharmaceutical company, Concordia, has been charging the NHS for the drug, used to treat hypothyroidism.

The condition is caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone, which can lead to depression, tiredness and weight gain, and affects around two in 100 people.

Liothyronine is not the first line treatment for an underactive thyroid, but for many patients there is no suitable alternative, and until earlier this year Concordia was the only supplier.

Before the drug was de-branded  in 2007, it cost around £4.46 per pack, before this shot up by almost 6,000% by July 2017 to a cost of £258.19, with production costs remaining stable.

Chief executive of CMA, Andrea Coscelli, said that pharmaceutical companies “abuse their position” when they overcharge for drugs, “forcing the NHS - and the UK taxpayer - to pay over the odds for important medical treatment.”

He added: “We allege that Concordia used its market dominance in the supply of liothyronine tablets to do exactly that.”

Coscelli went on to explain that the CMA’s findings are provisional at this stage, and there has not yet been a definitive decision that the company has breached competition law.

“We will carefully consider any representations from the companies before deciding whether the law has in fact been broken,” he concluded.

The CMA addressed its Statement of Objections to Concordia, as well as Cinven and HgCapital - private equity firms and previous owners of entities which now form part of Concordia.

In a statement issued today, Concordia denied any infringement of competition law.

The company said: “The pricing of liothyronine has been conducted openly and transparently with the Department of Health in the UK over a period of 10 years.

“Over that time, significant investment has been made in this medicine to ensure its continued availability for patients in the UK, to the specifications required by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK.”

Concordia will review the CMA’s preliminary position and says that it will respond in detail and will cooperate with the authority’s investigation.

This is not the first CMA case in the pharmaceutical sector, after Pfizer and Flynn Pharma were recently hit with a fine of almost £90m due to the “excessive and unfair” cost of epilepsy treatment, phenytoin sodium capsules.

A number of other drugs companies have also been fined a total of £45m in relation to the sale of anti-depressant medicine, paroxetine.

Both of these decisions are currently the subject of appeals.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an NHE columnist? If so, click here.


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

featured articles

View all News

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our Last Word Q&A series. Would you talk us throu more > more last word articles >

health service focus

View all News


NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

23/09/2019NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

Reason to celebrate as NHS says watching rugby can be good for your mental ... more >
Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >


Mike Farrar, Swim England - Last Word

07/12/2019Mike Farrar, Swim England - Last Word

Mike Farrar Chairperson of Swim England Would you talk us through... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

Unappreciated Qualities of Leadership: Hope

17/02/2020Unappreciated Qualities of Leadership: Hope

Independent consultant and strategic advisor Dean Royles continues his series on The Unappreciated Qualities of Leadership. You can find links to his previous pieces here. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital exemplars who were revealed at the same show 12 months earlier.  Jeremy Hunt also stated that by the end of 2018 – the 70th birthday... read more >