GlaxoSmithKline fined a UK record £37.6m for illegal payments at the expense of the NHS

Company paid rival to delay releasing drug on to the market

Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been fined £37.6m for paying rivals to delay the release of an anti-depressant paroxetine drug.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the £50m of payments were “illegal behaviour designed to stifle competition at the expense of the NHS and taxpayers” and meant GSK could hold on to their monopoly of the drug, which they have under the brand name Seroxat.

The cost of Seroxat fell 70% after 2003, when the rival was finally allowed to enter the market.

The CMA said GSK “deferred the competition that the threat of independent generic entry could offer, and potentially deprived the National Health Service of the significant price falls that generally result from generic competition”.

This is the largest fine the CMA has dealt out since it was set up in 2013 and one of the largest in UK history.

Michael Grenfell, head of enforcement at the CMA, said: “Today’s decision sends out a strong message that we will tackle illegal behaviour that is designed to stifle competition at the expense of customers - in this case, the NHS and, ultimately, taxpayers.

“This investigation shows our determination to take enforcement action against illegal anti-competitive practices in sectors big and small.

“Cracking down on these practices is essential to protect consumers, to encourage legitimate business activity that such practices stifle, and to stimulate innovation and growth.”

GSK is considering appealing the ruling and claims the payments were to settle patent disputes. The company said: “The agreements allowed the generics companies to enter the market early with a paroxetine product and ultimately enabled a saving of over £15m to the NHS.”

 

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