he Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has closed its investigation into a suspected anti-competitive discount scheme developed by pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme Limited (MSD) after finding no grounds for action.
The CMA found that the discount scheme was designed to delay or reduce competition from other suppliers of infliximab, a drug used to treat chronic illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
After its patent for its infliximab product, called Remicade, expired in early 2015, MSD introduced the discount scheme in an attempt to ensure the National Health Service (NHS) would continue to use mostly Remicade, rather than competitors’ newer and cheaper versions of infliximab (known as ‘biosimilars’).
By linking the level of discount offered on Remicade to the total amount of the drug purchased, the scheme—when coupled with caution in the NHS over moving away from tried and tested drugs, was designed to dissuade the NHS from trialling biosimilars, regardless of the potential savings.
The CMA stated said its investigation serves as a warning to businesses which design discount schemes to protect their dominant market position, that they risk breaching UK competition law: had MSD’s scheme in practice been likely to prevent or limit competition from rivals, the company could have faced severe financial penalties.
Full Content: Gov UK