UNITED KINGDOM – The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has fined companies more than US$47 million (£35) million for an illegal arrangement in the supply of critical NHS prescription anti-nausea tablets.

The fines are the result of an investigation by the (CMA) into the conduct of several pharmaceutical companies.

According to a CMA investigation, Focus entered into a profit-sharing agreement with rival distributors to ensure that it did not face competition when supplying an anti-nausea drug in the country.

Meanwhile, they paid a portion of the profits to two other pharmaceutical companies, Lexon and Medreich, in exchange for an agreement not to launch prochlorperazine at the same time.

 Prochlorperazine is a medication that is commonly used to treat nausea, dizziness, and migraines.

Consequently, in the following four years, the price of prochlorperazine, which is used to treat nausea, dizziness, and migraines, increased by 700% between 2013 and 2017.

The amount spent by the NHS on the drug increased from US$3.66 million (£2.7 million) to around US$10.15 million (£7.5 million) between 2014 and 2018, despite the fact that the amount used in the UK decreased.

Among the companies fined are Advanz, Cinven, and Lexon, all of which have previously been fined for violating competition laws in previous pharmaceutical CMA investigations.

Between February 2014 and February 2018, another company (Medreich) was involved in the arrangement.

CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli said: “The size of the fines reflects the seriousness of this breach. These firms conspired to stifle competition in the supply of this import ant medication, so that the NHS – the main buyer of the drugs – lost the opportunity for increased choice and lower prices.”

Cinven, which has its roots in the British coal miners pension scheme, has now been fined three times in the last year for drug price fixing.

Last July, it was fined US$28.29 million (£20.9 million) as part of an investigation into overcharging the NHS for hydrocortisone tablets, and it was fined US$70.26 (£51.9 million) in an investigation into inflated thyroid tablet costs.

Earlier on, the UK CMA launched an investigation into Microsoft’s US$20 billion acquisition of Nuance, which is the latest indication that they are tightening their scrutiny of large technology transactions.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority expects to make a decision on the case by March 9.

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