The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that a discount scheme operated by MSD for its biologic Remicade may have restricted competition from cheaper biosimilar versions of the drug entering the market.

Following an investigation that was kicked off in December 2015, the watchdog says it believes the firm breached competition law by abusing its dominant position through a discount scheme for Remicade that was likely to restrict competition from biosimilars of infliximab new to the market.

However, it also noted that at this stage of the investigation, the findings are provisional and no conclusion should be drawn that there has in fact been any breach of competition law, but stressed that it intends to find MSD and parent company Merck & Co “jointly and severally liable for the alleged infringement”.

MSD said it is “confident” the proceedings will show that it has complied with competition law at all times.

“The discounts in question meant that infliximab was competitively priced and offered savings to the UK National Health Service, without hindering competition,” the firm stressed in a statement.

The CMA said it will now carefully consider any representations by the company under investigation before determining whether the law has been infringed.

Remicade is an anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) primarily used to treat autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

In October 2015, MSD announced that it would offer the NHS discounts and rebates amounting to £48 million on £191 million sales of the drug, after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) approved both Remicade and biosimilar versions for NHS use, as well as the launch of a resource to aid clinicians wishing to switch patients from Remicade to a biosimilar.