Trends Journal‘s October 2019 article “THE OPIOID WARS” told how “corporate drug distributors are the most profitable dealers on the street.”
2 March 2021’s “PHARMA SERVICE FIRMS UNITE IN $12-BILLION BUY” told of the trend toward mergers and acquisitions in the drug business leading to concentration of ownership and elimination of competition.
And 27 July’s “LAWYERS AMONG BIG WINNERS IN OPIOID SETTLEMENT” related how Drug Lords can rake in billions, benefit from their incestuous relationships with former employees turned regulators, pay millions in settlements when their shady dealings are exposed, and never spend a single day behind bars.
Now the Financial Times reports, on 30 July, on action by the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority against three drug companies that have since consolidated, who raised the price of liothyronine, a thyroid hormone deficiency drug, from £20 in 2009 to £248 in 2017, an increase of 1000 percent.
Patients Left in the Lurch
This caused the U.K.’s National Health Service to stop supplying an otherwise most effective treatment, leaving patients in the lurch, forced to either do without or somehow manage to pay “excessive and unfair” prices out of their own pockets.
£100 Million in Fines? Peanuts!
The three involved were fined a total of over £100 million, a mere pittance compared to the prices paid in acquisitions and mergers as the drug industry continues its pattern of consolidation.
That pattern of consolidation eliminates competition and, in so doing, enables “price optimization” strategies; since generic, unbranded drugs are not subject to the same price regulation as proprietary, branded ones, a company can absorb the producers of a generic drug and then, as its only producer, feel free to increase the price. As noted, nobody ever goes to jail for these shenanigans; they pay the fines and go about their business.
The FT article mentions another case brought by the U.K. regulators in which one company colluded with rivals to stay out of the market for a hydrocortisone product. Fines have been levied against the companies involved, and those are being appealed. But there’s no mention of anyone facing incarceration.