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Monday, 19 December 2016

Big Pharma profits at our expense

No, I am no repeating myself. Pulse, the GP magazine, has today (19 December 2016) revealed yet another case of Big Pharma profiteering. I won't spend too much time on it! It has become such a regular occurrence, and the last time I blogged about it was just 3 days ago!

This time, Actavis UK hiked the price of a ‘lifesaving’ hydrocortisone drug by over 12,000%, according to the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on 18th December 2016.  The drug, which I believed is called Zenoxone, used to treat eczema, dermatitis and insect bite reactions, cost 70p in April 2008, and £88 by March 2016.

Pulse also tried to estimate the cost to NHS which spent £522,000 a year on hydrocortisone tablets in 2008, £70 million by 2016.

Teva, another drug company that acquired Actavis in August 2016, said that it "intended to ‘defend’ themselves". Drug companies are good at denial. They deny that they are profiteering. The deny that their drugs cause harm to patients.

Meanwhile, the CMA has to be careful. Once again they have challenged the pharmaceutical industry, and must fear that they will trigger legal action from an excessively wealthy industry. So their findings, they say, are only ‘provisional’, and ‘no conclusion' should be drawn yet. Is one possible conclusion that the pharmaceutical industry is riven with fraud and corruption!

I have looked to see if there is any reaction from the NHS. What monitoring of drug prices do the NHS have in place to protect themselves (and the taxpayer) from this kind of situation? What is their response to being fleeced by drug companies? After all, the customer for these drugs is the NHS, who decide whether for pay for them, and how much taxpayer's money to pay for them.

It would be nice to think that the NHS had something to say!