What's the issue?
On 7 December 2016, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Flynn Pharma were fined a record £84.2 million and £5.2 million respectively by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The companies have been found to be breaking the law by charging what the CMA said were 'excessive and unfair' prices in the UK for epilepsy medicine phenytoin sodium. Both companies have now lodged an appeal to the CMA’s decision.
Phenytoin sodium is used to treat epilepsy, particularly tonic-clonic and focal seizures, and is prescribed to an estimated 48,000 people in the UK. In 2012, the price increased from £2.83 to £67.50 a pack. This meant that the NHS spent an additional £48m on the drug in 2013, when compared to 2012, to ensure that people with epilepsy who rely on this medicine continued to receive it.
What we are doing
The money raised from the fines goes to the Treasury, which decides how it is spent. If the CMA’s decision is upheld, we want to see this money invested in epilepsy healthcare services.
Since the fines were announced in December 2016, Epilepsy Action has been backing a petition on the issue launched by Andrew Palmer, who has epilepsy. He feels strongly that this money should be used to make a real difference to the lives of people with epilepsy through funding vital services such as Epilepsy Specialist Nurses. The petition currently has 4032 signatures, and you can sign it here.
We wrote to Chancellor, Philip Hammond, to ask him to consider our request. We asked him to ring-fence the money, to pay for better epilepsy healthcare services. We also wrote to the Department of Health, and asked other Members of Parliament to put pressure on the Treasury.
We have since received two responses. Lord O'Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, replied to our letter on behalf of the Department of Health, saying he would discuss our request with the Treasury. This positive message was dashed in a second letter when he told us that the Treasury had informed him that they would not reinvest the money into epilepsy healthcare services. Instead, the money will go into the Government’s consolidated fund (sort of like the government’s main bank account) and will help fund the NHS in the future. However, Lord O’Shaughnessy did say that the Department of Health can take civil litigation to get compensation for the NHS – but this can’t take place until the appeal processes have finished.
How you can be involved
We are disappointed that the Treasury has taken this decision. We also recognise that our future campaigning on this issue relies heavily on the outcome of the appeal processes. We may have a long wait to find out. In the meantime, please keep on signing and sharing the petition. The more support we can show when the times comes, the better.
Please sign the petition and ask your friends to do the same.