Tribunal upholds CMA decision on pharma collusion and £1.2m fine

Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded its investigation into the supply of nortriptyline, a drug relied on by thousands of patients daily to relieve symptoms of depression.

The CMA found that pharmaceutical firm Lexon, along with King Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Alissa Healthcare Research Ltd, had illegally shared commercially sensitive information to try to keep nortriptyline prices up. From 2015 to 2017, when the cost of the drug was falling, the 3 suppliers exchanged information about prices, the volumes they were supplying, and Alissa’s plans to enter the market.

As a result, the CMA fined all 3 companies, fining Lexon a total of £1,220,383. Lexon maintained that it had not broken the law and so appealed against the decision and the fine.

Today’s judgment from the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) unanimously dismissed all of Lexon’s grounds of appeal, upholding both the CMA’s finding that the firm broke competition law, and the fine.

The judgment now clears the way for the CMA to continue its director disqualification application against Mr Pritesh Sonpal, a Lexon director, who was directly involved in the information exchange. The application was on hold in the High Court, pending the CAT’s decision.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said:

We welcome the decision from the Competition Appeal Tribunal to dismiss Lexon’s appeal in its entirety and support the findings of our investigation, including our decision to fine the firm over £1.2 million.

Lexon illegally exchanged competitively-sensitive information to try and keep prices up, meaning the NHS – and ultimately the UK taxpayer – could have been paying over the odds for this important drug.

Such behaviour is unacceptable. We will continue to crack down on companies that seek to break the law and will be keeping a close eye on this sector.

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