Drug price collusion allegations appalling, says Hunt

Drug price collusion allegations appalling, says Hunt

Although initially this appears to be somewhat off-topic (OT), further reading expressly identifies the supply of specials such as "unlicensed medicines for patients who, for example, are allergic to the licensed version or cannot swallow tablets and need their medication in liquid form.". Which seems to cover desiccated thyroid and lactose-free. So back fair and squarely on topic.

And every extra penny squeezed out of NHS funds is another argument against being supplied with what is needed. And every extra bit of scandal like this will make getting them ever more difficult even when wholly justified.

21 June 2013 Last updated at 10:52

Drug price collusion allegations appalling, says Hunt

Allegations that drug companies offered to collude with chemists to overcharge the NHS for some drugs are "appalling", the health secretary has said.

A Daily Telegraph report said three pharmaceutical companies discussed ways chemists could bill the NHS for more than they actually spent.

The claims concern so-called "special" prescribed medicines - unlicensed drugs developed for specific patients' needs.

NHS Protect said it was investigating the newspaper claims.

One of the three companies at the centre of the allegations said it had suspended a member of staff.

The two other firms denied the allegations.

Duplicate invoices

UK law allows pharmaceutical companies to develop unlicensed medicines for patients who, for example, are allergic to the licensed version or cannot swallow tablets and need their medication in liquid form.

When a pharmacist prescribes a special medicine they are reimbursed by the NHS for the cost of the drugs, plus a £20 fee. The NHS has to pay because there is no price tariff for so-called "specials".

The market for such drugs in 2010 was worth more than £160m in England.

The Telegraph said it sent its journalists to the annual Pharmacy Congress posing as investors looking to set up a chain of chemist shops.

Representatives selling "unlicensed specials" for three companies suggested ways pharmacists could cut costs - at the expense of the NHS - if they bought their drugs, the newspaper alleged.

The newspaper says one company told their undercover reporters about a "rebate" scheme, whereby the chemist would inflate their invoice to charge the NHS more than they actually paid for the drug.

The company said its sales representative had been "over enthusiastic" and denied offering a rebate scheme.

Another suggested the company could over-charge the chemist by 50%, but that the pharmacists could then claim the excess back. A spokesman for the firm said a staff member had been suspended and that the "alleged views" expressed did not represent its wider "business practice".

A third company offered to provide "duplicate invoices" - a practice which a sales representative said could be described as "slightly perhaps underhand", according to the Telegraph.

The company said the suggestion that it supplied such invoices was "totally inaccurate".

A Department of Health spokeswoman said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt found the allegations "appalling" but that any fraud investigation was a matter for NHS Protect.

A spokesman for the organisation, which investigates crime inside the health service, said it was looking at the claims and any allegations of fraud would be investigated.



Added 12:26 21/06/2013:

Also telegraph.co.uk/health/heal...

Added 08:50 22/06/2013

GPhC pledges to investigate Telegraph specials fraud exposé

By Emma Weinbren

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has pledged to look into headline allegations of pharmacists defrauding the NHS "as a matter of urgency".

Claims that pharmacists were colluding with specials manufacturers to secure extra NHS payments, splashed on the front page of this morning's Daily Telegraph, were "very serious" and would face immediate investigation, GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin told C+D today (June 21).


16 Replies

  • Why does nothing surprise me about the Pharmaceutical industry!

  • Been trying to get lactose free levothyroxine over 12 months. Initially GP knew nothing of it.

    Pharmacists claim no knowledge or how to get it.

    When I phoned the Pharmaceutical Companies Henning and Martindale they are not allowed under Client confidentiality to tell me which chemists hold an account with them.

    Told it is not a question of £'s and then in same breath one Pharmacist said that GP's will not prescribe because it comes out of practice budget and/ or the Pharmacy has to foot the bill!!?

    Then after much sucking of teeth like he was giving a quote for a complete body spray and new engine said 'if your GP writes the prescription we will source it'.

    Guess he knew that would be a NO as GP said ask the Consultant.

    The Consultant has already told me to ask the Pharmacy.

    SNAKES & LADDERS comes to mind.

    I quoted Jeremy Hunts department in a reply to Sheila Turner founder/chair of Thyroid Patient Advocacy tpauk.com

    Was told it appears Mr Jeremy Hunt does not know what is happening in the NHS.

    Am now in a position of again seeing an Endocrinologist I do not wish to consult and who would wants eventually to take me off thyroxine entirely.

    Am not able to fathom (at the moment) what is happening in NHS except that I feel like a pawn in a game where one rule is overruled by another.

    It has been said over many years by

    Journalists that the NHS pays way over the going rate for all supplies of everything.

    Thanks for posting this bbc article.

  • So does he think the allegations are appalling or the fact that it's happening appalling?

  • Exactly what I was going to ask :D The headline suggests it's the allegations but I suspect they mean the fact that it's happening. I am far too literal for my own good!

  • That's exactly what I thought when I read it.

  • That was my first thought. Could it be interpreted as: I am appalled that someone has found out about this?

    But I dismissed the thought immediately as I am 100% confident that our politicians are honest, hardworking individuals who have at heart nothing but the public good.

  • oh, I do like your humour, lol

    Jo xx

  • hehehehe! so wish there was a 'like' choice here! :)

  • After ripping off the nhs, when there is a problem with the drug or/and a recall they don't take any professional responsibility or care, either: the pharm co. the chemist, the gp.

    System sucks.:p

  • Politicians are as guilty as Big Pharma so until such time as both these companies and politicians are subjected to unprecedented levels of scrutiny and investigation, there will be no change.

    I'm not surprised at this, my cynicism knows no bounds these days when health is involved!

  • Here in Ireland we pay around €45 for a pack of Ti-Tre synthetic T3 that is marked and sells in Europe at €3.46. There was an licensed product, but it seems to have been just as expensive.

    The question i've never been able to answer is who gets to pocket what is an extortionate rip off.

    A cycnic would be justified in concluding that the politicians don't care - that the more money that moves the more they can rake off as it goes through the toll booth.

    I wrote to our esteemed the minister in the context of potency issues (not with Ti-Tre which has been very good) experienced in 2011/12, but the reply said he was too busy to meet anybody on the issue....


  • ian,

    Is that 28/30 or 100 tablets?

    I ask as we saw recently posted here that German Henning Thybon is around EUR 30 for 100 20 mcg tablets in Germany. So more expensive than you quote, but way under UK's Mercury product or your Ti-Tre.


  • To be fair i wasn't 100% complete on the above Rod, although i'm not sure what the official position is now.

    The price i pay is now down to €20.80 for 50 Ti-Tre 20 mcg (marked €3.46 as above) from a new pharamacist used for several months - but this is also the result of some sort of re-negotiation of prices by the health system. (medicine prices have at last started getting a little public profile here in recent times)

    The previous pharmacist was charging over €40 for a pack of 50 Ti-Tre, and so far as i know this was standard. Hard to tell because the prices were not until recently been itemised.

    The price info emerged from one or two instances where i ended up paying separately for the T3 due to supply issues - it was normally part of a larger prescription costing €132/month on our so called drug refund scheme.

    Amazing how a state run drug 'refund' scheme could charge 10X what the same product costs on the open market in Europe...


  • Yes, quite!

    And how our UK liothyronine has leapt in price since being changed from Tertroxin branding a few years ago. Despite being the same pills (according to the company).


  • Part of the Irish 'Euro' boom [inflation] experience?

    It's got to 'exit' somewhere -and thyroid treatment seems a highly likely vehicle for distorted markets- from all I've seen since looking into its diagnosos,treatment and meds provision!

  • I'd say bubble T. Scary what happened....


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