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Pfizer fined $106 million for drug price increase of 2,600% in Britain

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Britain’s antitrust regulator fined Pfizer Inc. a record $107 million Wednesday because of skyrocketing price increases for generic versions of the Epanutin anti-epilepsy drug. The Competition and Markets Authority announced Pfizer and drug-distribution company Flynn Pharma hiked prices of the drug by up to 2,600 percent for around 48,000 patients in the country in September 2012. Pfizer had transferred distribution rights to Flynn, which sold the medicine by its generic name, phenytoin sodium. Flynn was fined $6.55 million.

“The companies deliberately exploited the opportunity offered by de-branding to hike up the price for a drug which is relied upon by many thousands of patients,” Philip Marsden, chairman of the Case Decision Group for the CMA’s investigation, said in a statement. “These extraordinary price rises have cost the [National Health Service] and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.” The NHS spent about $63 million on the anti-epilepsy capsules in 2013 and $50 million in 2014, the CMA said in its August 2015 complaint. The prices jumped 25 fold. The 100-milligram packs of the drug soared from $3.53 to $84.69, before dropping to $68.05 starting in May 2014, the CMA said Wednesday.

Warwick Smith, an official with the British Generic Manufacturers Association, an industry body, told The Wall Street Journal the two companies “broke the virtuous cycle” between innovator and generic companies when drugs sharply fall in price after they lose their patent protection.

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