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. The companies have two months to lodge an appeal.
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.
The CMA fine equates to just five days profit for Pfizer, but it is money that could transform the lives of many people living with epilepsy.
What we are doing
The money raised from the fines goes to the Treasury, which decides how it is spent. We want to see this money invested in epilepsy healthcare services, such as epilepsy specialist nurses. Every person with epilepsy has the right to the best possible healthcare. Yet we know there are still long waiting times, high rates of misdiagnosis and too few epilepsy specialists. Epilepsy is all too often a forgotten condition.
We are backing a petition on the issue, launched by Andrew Palmer, who has epilepsy His mum also has epilepsy and uses phenytoin sodium. Andrew says: “I know how vital it is for people living with the condition to have access to high quality healthcare. Let’s turn this tale of corporate greed into a good news story and convince the UK government to use this money to fund a new generation of epilepsy specialist nurses. We need to work together to make a real difference to the lives of people with epilepsy.”
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 asked other MPs and organisations to support our request. Lord O'Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, replied to our letter on behalf of the government, saying he would discuss our request with the Treasury. We will be contacting Lord O'Shaughnessy directly to ask him to meet with us.
How you can be involved
Please sign the petition and ask your friends to do the same.