Generic drugmaker the Goldshield Group has agreed to pay the UK Department of Health a total of £4 million to settle allegations of its “anti-competitive cartel conduct” in connection with the supply of generic drugs to the National Health Service during 1999-2000.

Goldshield says it has agreed to pay the £4 million “on a full and final basis and without admission of liability,” and that it will cooperate with the Serious Fraud Office’s continuing investigations into the allegations of price-fixing.

This is the fourth out-of-court settlement in the long-running investigation by the SFO into claims that five companies supplying generic warfarin and penicillin-based antibiotics to the NHS had been involved in price-fixing and market-sharing during the period.

The total value of settlements agreed so far has now reached £34 million, with Ranbaxy of India agreeing to pay £4.5 million in April 2005, Merck KGaA subsidiary Generics UK announcing a £12 million settlement in June 2005 and Norton Pharmaceuticals paying £13.5 million in April 2006. None of the firms has admitted any wrongdoing.

Not guilty pleas

Goldshield and its founders Ajit and Kirti Patel (who have now resigned as the firm’s chief executive and chief operating officer, respectively), have also entered “not guilty” pleas in new proceedings which the SFO instigated in April 2006 against Goldshield, Generics UK, Ranbaxy, Norton and Kent Pharmaceuticals, plus nine executives of the firms (including one from Regent-GM Laboratories which is now in liquidation).

These latest proceedings, which allege that the firms and executives conspired to defraud the NHS of £150 million through dishonest price-fixing during 1996-2001, are due to come to trial early next year. The Case Controller, SFO assistant director Philip Lewis, describes this as an important case “which is likely to have a significant impact upon the business culture of this country.”