Opinion: Unhealthy charges

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We are all aware that the NHS is struggling financially to meet the requirements of a growing need. Drugs of various types are a large and costly part of the NHS’s treatment of patients.

How scandalous is it then if the big drug companies are massively overcharging the NHS for their products?

This however has been highlighted by the Competition and Markets Authority recently when they fined the huge drug company Pfizer a record sum of £84.2 million for overcharging the NHS for an anti-epilepsy drug.

It amounted to an overnight rise in cost of 2,600%, a drug which cost the NHS £2million in 2012 rose to £50 million in 2013.

The drug, under the brand name of Epanutin, is used by some 48,000 patients.

Pfizer transferred the distribution rights to Flynn Pharma who de-branded the drug, charging significantly more as it was no longer subject to a pricing scheme agreed between the NHS and the drugs industry.

The Competition and Markets Authority have fined Flynn Pharma £5.2 million for this blatant move to overcharge the NHS.

The NHS spends close to £16 billion every year on drugs, a figure which rises year on year.

One must query how much of this enormous bill to our NHS is a fair price.

Currently it is only the two companies in the spotlight.There are a number of other large international companies all supplying our most treasured institution.

We know there are companies in places like India which manufacture the most commonly used drugs for a fraction of the cost the large syndicates charge the NHS, perhaps the NHS should be looking at some of these to supply us.

I can’t help wondering how much more might come to light now one stone has been lifted and a disreputable creature found lurking underneath.