Pfizer gets record UK fine for drug price hike

Britain's competition watchdog fines Pfizer 84.2 million pounds (US$107 million) for its role in ramping up the cost of an epilepsy drug by as much as 2,600 per cent.

LONDON (Reuters) - Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been told to pay a record £84.2 million (S$151.4 million) by the British competition watchdog after they hiked up the price of an epilepsy drug by 2,600 per cent.

In 2012, the price of a 100mg packet of the capsules went from £2.83 to £67.50.

Annual spending on the drugs by the NHS rose from 2 million to about 50 million.

US drugmaker Pfizer used to market the medicine under the brand name Epanutin.

But it sold the rights to Flynn, a privately owned British company, in September 2012.

It was then debranded, so was no longer subject to price regulation.

Pfizer said the medicine had been losing money so it was forced to consider whether it could continue supplying it.

Pfizer and Flynn, fined 5.2 million, plan to appeal.

The ruling comes amid a growing debate on both sides of the Atlantic.

Concerning the ethics of price hikes for old off-patent medicines that are only made by a few companies and where there isn't much competition.