The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that Auden Mckenzie and Waymade, rivals in the supply of life-saving hydrocortisone tablets, entered into illegal anti-competitive agreements between July 2011 and April 2015.

This may also have involved Auden Mckenzie abusing its dominant position by making monthly payments to Waymade not to enter the market, and so the CMA has issued its concerns in a ‘Statement of Objections’ to the companies involved.

As a result of this alleged anti-competitive behaviour, the CMA believes the NHS was denied a choice of suppliers and the potential savings resulting from increased competition.

From 2011 to 2015, while Auden Mckenzie remained the sole supplier of 20 mg hydrocortisone tablets, charges to the NHS rose from around £46 to £90 for a pack of 30 tablets, increasing the annual costs incurred by the NHS for the medicine from £1.7 million to £3.7 million.

Michael Grenfell, the CMA’s executive director for enforcement said: “The CMA has today provisionally found that Auden Mckenzie and Waymade broke competition law through Auden Mckenzie paying its rival to stay out of the market. Hydrocortisone is a lifesaving drug for those suffering with Addison’s Disease in the UK.

"The NHS should not be denied the opportunity of benefitting from an increased choice of suppliers and potential savings on what it spends on this essential drug.”

Hydrocortisone tablets are the primary treatment for people suffering from the life-threatening Addison’s Disease, where adrenal glands produce insufficient amounts of natural steroid hormones.