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CMA fines hydrocortisone tablet suppliers over GBP 260 million

  • 23/07/2021
  • Articles

On 15 July 2021, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) imposed fines of more than GBP 260 million on the hydrocortisone tablet suppliers, Auden Mckenzie and Actavis (now named Accord-UK) for charging excessive and unfair prices and for paying potential rivals to remain out of the market (see Press Release).  CMA Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli, referred to the CMA’s findings as “without doubt some of the most serious abuses […] uncovered in recent years.” 

Excessive and Unfair Pricing

The CMA found that Auden Mckenzie and Actavis charged excessive and unfair prices for 10mg and 20mg hydrocortisone tablets between 2008 and 2018 (Actavis took over Auden Mckenzie’s hydrocortisone tablet business in 2015 and is therefore liable for its conduct before that date). The CMA found that the parties had increased the price of the tablets by more than 10,000% compared to the price that had been charged for the original branded version of the tablets. More specifically, in April 2008, the price of a single pack of 10mg tablets was 70p and a pack of 20mg tablets was GBP 1.07; by March 2016, the prices had risen to GBP 88 and GBP 102.74, respectively.

In supplying a de-branded version of the hydrocortisone tablets, the parties were able to exploit the fact that it is only the original, branded version of a drug which is subject to price regulation. In theory, the prices of de-branded medicines should be kept in check by the onset of competition between competing generic suppliers. However, in this instance – and to some extent due to the conduct of the parties (see Market Sharing below) - such competition did not, in fact, materialise. This created the space for the parties to drastically hike the price of their products.

The total fine imposed by the CMA for the charging of excessive and unfair prices was GBP 155 million.

Market Sharing

The CMA also found that Auden Mckenzie concluded anticompetitive market sharing agreements with Waymade and AMCo (now known as Advanz Pharma). Pursuant to these agreements, Auden Mckenzie made monthly payments to Waymade and AMCo in return for their commitment to refrain from introducing their own generic hydrocortisone tablets to market. In total, over the duration of the agreement, AMCo received GBP 21 million and Waymade received GBP 1.8 million.

The CMA fined Auden McKenzie/Accord-UK and Allergan (as its former parent company) a further GBP 66 million for its part in the market sharing agreement. AMCo/Advanz Pharma and its former parent, Cinven, were fined a total of GBP 43 million, and Waymade was fined GBP 2.5 million.

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