The UK Competition Commission (CC) is inviting evidence on whether to remove undertakings which restrict the way IMS Health sells its specialised pharmaceutical data services.

The undertakings followed a 1999 decision by the CC's predecessor, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC), that IMS’ acquisition of Pharmaceutical Marketing Services Inc (PMSI) was against the public interest. It would have adverse effects on the efficiency and effectiveness and costs of management and marketing for pharmaceutical companies, and result in higher costs to the NHS, raise the prices of over-the-counter products and reduce the choice of medicines, it said.

Therefore, IMS was required to sell Source Dispenser, PMSI's wholesale data business, which it did in October 2000.

IMS also gave undertakings to: license prescription data on reasonable terms to other parties; publish price lists and discounts for its specialised pharmaceutical data services; not to bundle those services with other goods or services; and not to enter into exclusive contracts with data providers.

The first of these required undertakings lapsed in February 2005. The other three remain in place and IMS has now asked to be released from them, arguing that, since December 2011, the UK government has published GP prescription data for free, that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also doing so and that all this free data is directly comparable to the information purchased and provided by IMS.

Moreover, says IMS, since the NHS data has become available there has been considerable new market entry, including Cegedim, the Annual Prescription Cost Analysis Data published by the Home Countries Health Services, a new NHS service called GPRx, health information specialist Harvey Walsh and the data website Scriptmap. "Numerous" other companies are already using NHS prescription data, it adds.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) began a consultation on IMS's request earlier this year, and has now told the CC that while a change of circumstances means the undertakings may no longer be appropriate, the evidence is mixed and the effects of this change is unclear.

Therefore, the CC is calling for evidence. It is particularly keen to hear views on: - whether publication of GP prescription data has lowered barriers to entry; and - whether the services offered by Cedegim, NHiS, Harvey Walsh and Scriptmap are viable alternatives to IMS’ service that are capable of constraining IMS.

Comments should be received by 5pm September 13.