Tribunal rules against £89 million government fine

Published: June 08 2018
Last updated: September 28 2022

A UK Competition Appeal Tribunal has overturned the decision to fine two pharmaceutical companies over price hikes of their phenytoin sodium capsules.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued a record £89 million fine to Pfizer and Flynn Pharma in December 2016. This was a result of the two pharmaceutical companies raising the prices for their epilepsy medicine by 2,600% overnight in 2012.

Yesterday, the tribunal ruled that he CMA did not correctly apply the legal test when they found that the hiked-up prices of the medicine were unfair.

However, the tribunal said that there is “much in the [CMA’s] decision with which we agree”. It also highlighted that this ruling “does not imply any finding by the tribunal as to whether there has been an abuse by Pfizer or Flynn of their respective dominant positions”.

In a statement, the CMA said that it is disappointed with the judgement but is considering issuing an appeal of the decision. It said its decision to issue the fine was in order to protect the NHS, patients and taxpayers.

The CMA said: “The tribunal has provisionally decided to remit the case back to the CMA for further consideration, after ruling against its finding of abuse. The tribunal’s judgment makes it clear that a finding of abuse remains possible given the size of the price increase that occurred.”

Following the decision of the tribunal, Pfizer issued a statement saying the company is pleased with the decision. It added: “Our priority has always been to ensure a sustainable supply of our medicines to UK patients and this was at the heart of our decision to divest this medicine.”

Epilepsy Action chief executive Philip Lee said: “We have noted the judgement in the recent appeal case heard by the Competition Appeal Tribunal involving the CMA and Pfizer and Flynn Pharma.

“All people with epilepsy deserve to receive the best possible care and treatment for their condition. This includes having access to the most appropriate anti-epileptic drug or drugs that are available.

“Anything that might jeopardise the continuity of supply of anti-epileptic drugs must be avoided and protected against. That includes the potential for unfair pricing of medicines which could affect their affordability to the NHS and limit their availability.”

There is more information on epilepsy medicines on the Epilepsy Action website.