UK Drugmaker Stops Plan To Pull Bipolar Meds After Antitrust Probe

A private equity owned drugmaker is under investigation by the UK’s competition watchdog after its threats to withdraw one of its bipolar medicines triggered a fierce backlash from doctors over access and pricing, reported the Financial Times.

Essential Pharma, which was bought out by Swiss private equity firm Gyrus Capital in January, planned to pull lithium-based medicine priadel from the market in April 2021, pushing thousands of patients with bipolar disorder towards the company’s more costly drug.

The company on Tuesday, October 6, stated it had failed to agree a “sustainable price” for lossmaking priadel with the Department of Health but would continue to supply the drug after the Competition and Markets Authority announced its probe.

At least one in a 100 people in the UK are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and of those 20% take lithium tablets. Essential Pharma makes two of the three lithium carbonate medicines used to treat bipolar disorder in England.

Priadel costs £4.02 (US$5.18) for a pack of 100 400mg pills while the cost of Essential Pharma’s lithium-based alternative camcolit is £48.18(US$62.07). The company’s most expensive lithium carbonate tablet costs £87(US$112.08) for 100 250mg pills.