U.K. Watchdog Slaps Pfizer With Record Fine for Gigantic Price Hike on Epilepsy Drug

Phenytoin price tag jumped 2,600%

The United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has imposed a record $107 million fine on Pfizer after finding that the company broke competition law by charging excessive and unfair prices in the U.K. for phenytoin sodium capsules, an epilepsy drug. The CMA has also ordered the company to reduce its prices.

Pfizer’s prices for the phenytoin capsules in the U.K. have been many times higher than the company’s prices for the same drug in any other European country, the CMA noted.

The record fine follows price hikes of up to 2,600% since the capsules were de-branded in September 2012. De-branding means that a medication is no longer subject to price regulation.

The CMA's ruling comes amid a growing debate on both sides of the Atlantic about the ethics of price hikes for old off-patent medications that are made by only a few firms and where there is little competition.

U.S. drug maker Turing Pharmaceuticals, led at the time by hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, caused outrage last year by raising the U.S. price of pyrimethamine, an old anti-infective drug, by more than 5,000% to $750 a pill.

Pfizer said it planned to appeal all aspects of the CMA verdict.

Sources: GOV.UK; December 7, 2016; and Reuters; December 7, 2016.