Drug giants 'swindle NHS by blocking cheap medicines' extending patents

Britain's research-based pharmaceutical industry has been accused of using devious tactics to extend the life of drug patents, costing the NHS millions of pounds.

Manufacturers of generic medicines – cheap copies of brand-name drugs – hit out at the tactics adopted by major pharmaceutical companies of "evergreening" products to maintain their monopoly on the market after a patent expires.

The allegations were made as the makers of an indigestion remedy, Gaviscon, launched an internal investigation after being accused of cheating the NHS.

Internal documents obtained by the BBC's Newsnight programme allegedly showed that executives at Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of Gaviscon, schemed to create obstacles to prevent cheap generic versions. Generic copies of Gaviscon could have saved the NHS £40m since 1999, Newsnight claimed.

Warwick Smith, director of the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA), said: "The sort of evergreening alleged by Newsnight can cost the NHS tens of millions of pounds with no patient benefit. New drugs get a long period of monopoly in which to make a return on their investment in research. Delaying generic competition weakens the NHS, costs the taxpayer and undermines patient care."

Reckitt Benckiser said in a statement: "We are shocked by the allegations ... and by the inappropriate sentiment expressed in some of the internal correspondence of 2003. Reckitt Benckiser is a responsible company and we have therefore instigated an immediate internal investigation and will take action. However, we do not accept much of what has been alleged."

In evidence to the Commons Health Select Committee in 2004, the BGMA cited five drugs which their manufacturers had tried to "evergreen" before their patents expired. In one case, the manufacturer of the blood pressure drug Ramipril attempted to switch it from capsule to tablet form three months before its patent expired in 2004. Computers used by GPs listed tablets, scuppering attempts by generic manufacturers who were geared up to produce capsules.

The BGMA said that had action not been taken, the delay in introducing a generic version could have cost the NHS £70m.

In its report, the select committee called for a "systematic review of so-called evergreening and other practices that impede the entry of generic drugs on to the market".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C++ Software Developer / Image Processing / 3D Visualisation

    £45,000 to £55,000: IT Connections Ltd: C++ Software Developer / Image Process...

    Java / J2EE Developer / Agile / Linux

    £30,000 to £40,000: IT Connections Ltd: Java / J2EE Developer / Agile / Linux ...

    Software Development Manager / Java / J2EE

    £45,000 to £55,000: IT Connections Ltd: Software Development Manager / Java / ...

    Digital Content Manager,Leicester

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Charter Selection: Leading Nationwide and important...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor