Insights & news

In United Kingdom Aspen Extricates Itself from Cartel-Based Proceedings But Excessive Pricing Procedures Around Europe Have Not Yet All Been Finished

  • 04/10/2019
  • Articles

On 3 October 2019, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) issued a Statement of Objections against Aspen of South-Africa, UK based company Amilco and Dutch firm Tiofarma (see, attached press release). The three companies are accused of illegal market sharing. Aspen would have agreed to pay Amilco and Tiofarma to stay out of the UK market for fludrocortisone acetate tablets (“FAT”). This prescription-only medicine is indicated for the treatment of primary and secondary adrenal insufficiency, known as Addison’s Disease. Aspen thus supposedly cordoned off its UK monopoly in relation to the supply of FAT and, in the process, was allegedly able to increase its prices for the product by up to 1,800%.
Amilco and Tiofarma deny any wrongdoing and will contest the charges. By contrast, Aspen has already admitted that it took part in the anticompetitive arrangement and is prepared to pay the maximum penalty of GBP 2.1 million.
Earlier, in August 2019, Aspen had also offered commitments to remedy a related competition law violation stemming from the purchase in October 2016 of the marketing authorisations of a competing fludrocortisone product from Tiofarma (see, attached press release). The CMA has now accepted these commitments which involve the payment of GBP 8 million to the National Health Service (“NHS”) and the assurance that in future there will be at least two suppliers of fludrocortisone on the market to help the NHS benefit from more competitive prices.
The succession of events in the procedure before the CMA sheds a new light on Aspen’s business conduct in Europe. Aspen was among the first pharmaceutical firms to come under competition scrutiny on account of allegedly excessive and therefore abusive pricing conduct with respect to various medicines. It had to face inquiries by the European Commission and by the Italian, Spanish and UK competition authorities. In Italy, it was given a fine of more than EUR 5 million in September 2016. In the UK, it is at this point unclear whether or not the CMA will continue to pursue its excessive pricing probe against Aspen.  The similar case before the European Commission is understood to be pending. Lastly, the Spanish case was closed because the Spanish Authority considered that it lacked jurisdiction.     

Key contacts

Related practice areas

Related insights

Sign up for updates
    • 12/02/2020
    • Articles

    UK Competition and Markets Authority Consolidates Hydrocortisone Probe On Account of Excessive Pricing and Other Competition Violations

    The UK Competition and Markets Authority announced this morning that it has issued a supplementary statement of objections (“SSO”) in its inquiry into alleged excessive and unfair pricing, anti-competitive agreements and abusive conduct in relation to the supply of hydrocortisone tablets in the UK (see, attachment). The CMA has been conducting three separate investigations in this matter and has issued previous statements of objections on four occasions between December 2016 and February 2019 (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflash of 6 March 2017). The new SSO has brought all these cases together and has allowed the CMA to reconsider specific aspects of its provisional findings in the previous statements of objections. The CMA accuses a range of companies, including Auden Mckenzie and its successor Accord-UK (previously: Actavis UK), Waymade and Advanz Pharma (previously: Concordia and AMCo), of having charged excessive and unfair prices for hydrocortisone tablets and having entered into agreements that cemented a prevailing dominant position on the market. The CMA also seeks to attribute liability to other parties which at various points in time had ownership of some of the accused firms. Hydrocortisone tablets are the primary treatment for people suffering from the life-threatening Addison's disease which causes adrenal glands to produce insufficient amounts of natural steroid hormones. According to the CMA, there are limited alternative treatments for hydrocortisone tablets.

    Read more
    • 07/02/2020
    • Articles

    Belgian Council of State Clarifies Role of Concerned Member States in Decentralised Marketing Authorisation Procedure

    On 16 January 2020 the Belgian Council of State reaffirmed the limited discretionary powers of a concerned Member State to call into question the assessments carried out by the Reference Member State in a decentralised procedure. It relied heavily on the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the field. Please find attached a note on the judgment as well as its text.

    Read more
    • 03/02/2020
    • Articles

    Belgium - Medicine Shortages

    The Belgian Official Journal publishes today a Law of 20 December 2019 modifying various laws to tackle medicine shortages (Wet van 20 december 2019 tot wijziging van diverse wetgevingen wat de tekorten aan geneesmiddelen betreft/Loi du 20 décembre 2020 modifiant diverses législations, en ce qui concerne les pénuries de medicaments – the Law). For a summary of the Law’s key features, we refer to the Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflash of 20 December 2019. The Royal Decrees that will complement the Law have not yet been published. We understand this still may take some time. The Law will enter into force on 13 February 2020 (i.e., 10 days following its publication in the Belgian Official Journal), with the exception of Articles 2 and 4 that started to apply on 31 January 2020.

    Read more

Subscribe to our updates

Please select the practice areas you are interested in: *