Drugs companies including GSK fined £45m for paying to delay cheap versions of anti-depressant Seroxat

When a generic version of paroxetine did enter the market two years later, the price of the drug dropped by over 70 per cent in two years

Click to follow
The Independent Online

GSK has been fined for paying money to generic drug companies to prevent the potential entry of generic alternatives to its own "blockbuster" anti-depressant.

GlaxoSmithKline's so-called pay-to-delay agreements were found to have delayed the launch of generic alternatives to its anti-depressant Seroxat

This potentially deprived the NHS from "significant price falls", the Competition and Markets Authority said.

In 2001, Generics (UK), Limited (GUK) and Alphapharma Limited (Alpharma) were readying a generic version of a paroxetine, which is used to treat depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders.

The Competition and Markets Authority said that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) agreed to make payments and other transfers worth more than £50 million to suppliers of generic paroxetine, which would have been in competition with its own branded Seroxat.

Seroxat was a "blockbuster" product, the CMA said. In the UK, 4.2 million prescriptions were issued for Seroxat in 2000 and Seroxat sales exceeded £90 million in 2001. At the time GSK held certain patents in relation to paroxetine.

When a generic version of paroxetine did enter the market in 2003, the price of the drug dropped by over 70 per cent in two years.

The CMA found that GSK’s agreements with each of GUK and Alpharma infringed the competition law prohibition on anti-competitive agreements. It has imposed a fine of £37 million on GSK.

Generic drug companies involved were also fined smaller amounts, bringing the total fines to £45 million.

GSK said it strongly disagreed and argued its actions had actually brought down the cost of medicine for the state-run health service. The drugmaker added it was considering grounds for appeal.

Additional reporting by Reuters