Health secretary Andrew Lansley is leading a legal charge against Reckitt Benckiser, filing a lawsuit against the firm in the High Court alongside National Health Service groups from around the country.

According to media reports, the court filing shows that all 10 strategic health authorities and 144 primary care trusts are banding together to sue the company, although the nature of the case is being kept under wraps for now.

Both the Department of Health and Reckitt have declined to provide any comment on the issue at this time; a spokesperson for the company told PharmaTimes UK News that it has not yet received any papers regarding the suit.

There is however, growing speculation that the discord relates to an Office of Fair Trading probe last year which found the firm to be guilty of illegal anti-competitive behaviour relating to its heartburn liquid Gaviscon.

The investigation found that Reckitt had effectively rigged a section of the heartburn market by withdrawing its off-patent Gaviscon Original Liquid from a database used by GPs to search for National Health Service medicines, so that only the branded and more expensive version - Gaviscon Advance Liquid - would appear available.

Consequently, Reckitt was slapped with a £10.2 million fine from the OFT for breaching UK competition law, but this latest move by the NHS could mean that it is seeking further compensation from the drugmaker for losses it incurred due to its controversial actions.