Expert legal advice from the competition lawyers

CMA launch investigation into the supply of lithium-based medication

First published by Matt on October 15, 2020 in the following categories: Healthcare Industry Investigations and tagged with | | |

liothyronine tablets investigation

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into the supply of lithium-based medication, used to treat bipolar disorder.

The CMA has announced the investigation will look into prominent pharmaceutical company, Essential Pharma. They are suspected to have abused an alleged dominant position as a medication supplier by proposing to withdraw the supply of lithium-based medication to UK patients.

About the supply of lithium-based medication

Essential Pharma supplies lithium-based medication under the brand names ‘Priadel’ and ‘Camcolit’, according to the CMA. The pharmaceutical company is reportedly proposing to stop the supply of lithium-based ‘Priadel’ in the UK, which could mean that patients would have to switch to ‘Camcolit’, which is a more expensive lithium treatment.

The proposed suspension of ‘Priadel’ in the UK is particularly concerning for patients who rely on the drug daily to manage their bipolar disorder. Serious concerns stem from medical bodies and charities who have suggested that switching the medication can be a difficult process for patients, with a risk of health complications arising.

The higher costs of ‘Camcolit’ could also significantly raise costs for the NHS.

Launch of CMA’s investigation

The CMA launched its investigation into the supply of lithium-based medication on 5th October 2020. It is still currently ongoing, and the CMA has not yet reached a view as to whether there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of competition law.

At a time when the National Health Service is under increasing strain from the coronavirus pandemic, investigations into medications are concerning and are an unwelcome distraction. The investigations will hopefully be thoroughly concluded as soon as possible.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: ‘Thousands of people across the UK rely on lithium-based drugs to manage bipolar disorder, so it’s important that we protect their interests by scrutinising potential competition concerns to reach a fair conclusion as quickly as possible.’

What happens next?

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had requested that the CMA impose ‘interim measures’ to pause the withdrawal of Priadel while the investigation is ongoing. However, in the wake of CMA’s investigation, Essential Pharma has informed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that it will continue to supply lithium-based medication. This may be an attempt to facilitate discussions on pricing and remove the immediate threat to patients.

The CMA is continuing its investigation as the threat of withdrawal remains unless a satisfactory agreement is reached on price. At the end of the investigation, if found guilty if any breaches, the CMA could impose a financial penalty. Any business found to have infringed important competition laws can be fined of up to 10% of its annual worldwide group turnover.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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