The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has finally ruled that four pharmaceutical companies - King Pharmaceuticals, Auden Mckenzie, Accord-UK and Alissa Healthcare - have broken the law in relation to the anti-competitive supply of nortriptyline.

The body found that the supply of nortriptyline, a drug relied on by thousands of patients every day to relieve symptoms of depression, had been shared out between King and Auden to a large pharmaceutical wholesaler, rather than the two companies competing.

From September 2014 to May 2015, allegedly the two companies agreed that King would supply only 25mg and Auden Mckenzie only 10mg tablets, with the two guilty firms also colluding to fix quantities and prices.

Both admitted to breaking the law in September 2019 after the CMA probe, with Accord-UK also being held accountable due to taking control of Auden’s nortriptyline business after this market sharing ended.

Alissa has also been targeted and fined, for illegally sharing commercially sensitive information, to try to keep nortriptyline prices up.

Ultimately, the CMA is fining King and Accord-UK £75,573 and £1,882,238 respectively, with Accord-UK and Auden agreeing to make a £1 million payment to the NHS in connection with the case; only the second time a payment of its kind has occurred from a case.

The firms “exchanged sensitive information and shared out supply to try and keep prices up, meaning the NHS – and ultimately the UK taxpayer – could have been paying over the odds for this vital drug” explained Andrea Coscelli, chief executive at the CMA. “That’s why we’ve worked hard to secure £3.4 million in fines and another pay out for the NHS.”

He went on to say that the organisation’s decisions "should act as a clear warning to any pharmaceutical company that considers stifling competition and cheating the NHS.”

The CMA reminds that the announcement follows the recent launch of its ‘Cheating or Competing?’ campaign, which tells companies that it’s their business to know which practices are illegal.

It also explains why certain practices, like market sharing, are illegal and should be reported, and urges people to come forward if they have information.