According to recent reports in The Daily Telegraph, the price of Epanutin capsules (phenytoin sodium) has seen a huge increase. It is now 24 times the original price – potentially meaning a sharp rise in the NHS epilepsy drugs bill.
The price increase was announced recently after a change in how the drug is being marketed. Phenytoin sodium capsules have always been manufactured by a company called Pfizer and marketed under the brand name Epanutin. Pfizer are still making phenytoin sodium capsules – the drug itself is exactly the same. However, it is now being marketed by a company called Flynn Pharma. It has bought the licence to sell Epanutin under the new name ‘Phenytoin Sodium Flynn Hard Capsules’.
We have been told that Pfizer had previously been selling the drug to the NHS, charging 66p for a 28-pack of 25mg capsules. The same pack sold by Flynn will now cost nearly £16. To put this in context, the NHS had previously been spending a total of £2m each year on Epanutin. The same purchase would now be worth a substantial £46.6m.
One doctor that is unhappy with the price increase is Surrey-based family doctor, Martin Brunet. He has condemned the move in his online blog.
Technically, the price increase should not affect people with epilepsy. Those who have been prescribed phenytoin sodium capsules should remain on the same drug, regardless of the potential cost to the NHS.
Stacey Rennard is Epilepsy Action’s PR and campaigns manager. She stated the following on behalf of the organisation: “We do not have access to the pricing policy of Flynn Pharma or details of how the market price of Phenytoin Sodium Flynn Hard Capsules was set. It is therefore difficult for us to comment on the pricing decision. Our main concern it that that the change in price could lead to resistance to prescribe Phenytoin Sodium Flynn Hard Capsules among clinicians.
“The cost of Phenytoin Sodium Flynn Hard Capsules should not impact on a clinician’s decision to prescribe this drug for patients who find it an effective treatment for their epilepsy. The decision to prescribe a patient a particular drug should be based on clinical grounds to ensure the patient gets the most effective treatment. Epilepsy medicine should not be changed unless this decision is based on improving a patient’s health and is done in consultation with the patient.
“Brand switching or a change in epilepsy medicine can lead to breakthrough seizures, worsening seizure control or side-effects. These are major issues for many people with epilepsy, which can affect employment, education and social life.”
Stacey adds: “We would like to hear from you if your doctor suggests switching to another epilepsy medication as a result of the price change.”
If you have concerns or questions about epilepsy or epilepsy medication, please contact our helpline.