Essential Pharma Offers Commitments to CMA to Ensure Continuity of Supply to NHS of Critical Bipolar Drug

24th November 2020

On 12th October we reported that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had launched a competition law investigation into Essential Pharma on the basis that the firm may have abused its dominant position by proposing to withdraw the supply of bipolar drug, Priadel, to UK patients.

See link to previous story here:

If Priadel was withdrawn, this would require patients to switch to alternative, more expensive treatments such as Camcolit, which is also owned by Essential Pharma. A number of medical bodies and charities had raised a number of concerns over the effect on patients if Priadel was withdrawn. It would require them to switch bipolar medication, which can be a lengthy and complicated process. Such a move could lead to serious health implications. It would also hit the NHS budget significantly as the proposed withdrawal would also see NHS’ costs increase significantly, at a time when it faces unprecedented pressure due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Following the opening of that investigation, Essential Pharma halted the withdrawal of Priadel and entered into price negotiations with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). An agreement has now been reached with the DHSC on a new price for the Priadel drug. The agreed price is still lower than alternative bipolar drugs.

To end the CMA’s investigation Essential Pharma has now offered formal commitments to the CMA to address competition concerns regarding its strategy in relation to Priadel. Under their terms the proposed commitments would last for 5 years and include an obligation to continue to supply Priadel on terms agreed with the DHSC. This is designed to give comfort to the NHS that the company cannot during the term of the commitments threaten to withdraw Priadel and/or increase the price without good reason.

The CMA’s preliminary view is that the proposed commitments meet its competition concerns. It is now seeking third parties’ views on the commitments before accepting them formally. If accepted, the commitments will bring the investigation to an end.