In October last year The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally found that three drug firms - Aspen, Amilco and Tiofarma - signed an illegal agreement that resulted in significant price hikes for an essential medicine.

The drug in question - fludrocortisone - is a life-saving medicine that thousands of patients rely on to treat adrenal insufficiency, commonly known as Addison’s Disease.

Now, the organisation says that Tiofarma has admitted that it took part in an agreement that resulted in the price hikes, following on from Aspen’s confession.

The CMA’s provisional finding last year was that the agreement involved Tiofarma and Amilco staying out of the UK fludrocortisone market so that Aspen could maintain its position as the sole UK supplier.

In exchange, it is alleged that Tiofarma was made the sole manufacturer of fludrocortisone for direct sale in the UK, and Amilco received a 30% share of the increased prices that Aspen was able to charge.

The CMA now says that it has alleged, and provisionally found, that the agreement between Aspen, Tiofarma and Amilco contributed to the price of fludrocortisone acetate tablets supplied to the NHS increasing by up to 1800%.

On its confession, Aspen offered to pay the NHS £8 million in a first-of-its kind deal, as well as ensuring that in the future, there will be at least two suppliers of fludrocortisone in the UK to help the NHS access more competitive prices.

Ultimately, Tiofarma has now agreed to pay a maximum fine of £186,000 if there is a formal final decision that the law has been broken. However, Amilco has made no admission of liability and so the CMA’s probe is still ongoing.