An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has revealed substantial increases in the prices of some generic medicines, sparking accusations that some pharmaceutical companies are profiteering.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, the prices of certain generic medicines have rocketed - some as much as 1000% - in just a couple of years. And it cites several examples, such as that of hydrocortisone tablets, the cost of which has surged from £5.00 for a packet of 10mg pills in 2008 to £44.40 today.

Similarly, a 125ml course of the antibiotic Flucloxacillin syrup cost the NHS around £4 last year, but now its price tag has rocketed to £21.87. The newspaper notes that the price hike coincides with a move by Teva to stop making the drug, handing “a virtual monopoly” to rival manufacturer Actavis.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Health told PharmaTimes UK News that the average price of a generic medicine in the UK has actually gone down.

“There are approximately 3,700 different generic medicines prescribed on the NHS. Between 2004-2009, generic medicine prices fell by over one-third after inflation. During this period the average price of a generic medicine fell from £5.24 to £3.96,” she explained.

She did concede, however, that the Department is “are aware that the prices of a small number of medicines have risen in recent times and we are reviewing what action may be taken”.

However, the DH also stressed to PharmaTimes UK News that "no new review of generic pricing
has been launched but where a price has significantly increased, as happens from time to time, the Department reviews these on a case by case basis to determine the cause of the price increase and its rationale".

In the main, the Department does not regulate generic prices and relies on competition to secure value for money, a spokesman explained.