The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and the National Health Service are suing the consumer-goods group Reckitt Benckiser for £89m over the supply of Gaviscon, the company's heartburn medicine.
The case comes after Reckitt was fined £10.2m by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in October for admitting abuse of its dominant position in the supply of Gaviscon. The company admitted infringing British and European competition law by withdrawing its profitable Gaviscon Original Liquid from the National Health Service's prescription list after its patent expired in 2005. The move meant that prescriptions would be issued for Gaviscon Advance Liquid, which was protected by patent.
"Vigorous competition between firms supplying the public sector is vital to ensure taxpayers get the best value for money," the OFT's chief executive, John Fingleton, said when the fine was announced last year.
When contacted, Reckitt declined to comment on the Health Secretary's case.