UK fines private equity firms £60.5m over drug prices

2021-07-30 01:10:00 AM

Cinven and Hg held liable for huge overcharging for thyroid hormone deficiency tablets by pharmaceutical company that they previously owned

Benjamin RobertsonPicture: REUTERSBritain’s competition regulator fined private equity firms Cinven and Hg after a pharmaceutical firm they once owned was found to have overcharged for crucial drugs.The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) charged Cinven £51.9m and Hg £8.6m following investigations into Advanz Pharma, according to a statement Thursday. It said the drug company marked up prices for thyroid hormone deficiency tablets known as liothyronine by more than 1,000% over eight years.

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Cinven and Hg, based in London, previously owned businesses that are now part of Advanz. The penalty is Cinven’s second in two weeks, after the CMA fined the firm and Advanz for allegedly colluding to keep the price of hydrocortisone tablets high.While the CMA has long focused on pharmaceutical prices, the latest fines mark the first time it’s sought to hold private equity firms liable for infringements by their portfolio companies. The 2017 trial of Martin Shkreli, who’s serving seven years behind bars for defrauding hedge fund investors, helped draw wider attention to the practice of hiking drug prices many times over.

“Cinven is named under the principle of parental liability only as former parent of AMCo and does not believe that any Cinven entity broke the law,” a Cinven spokesperson said. “Cinven strongly disagrees with the CMA’s findings and will be appealing the CMA’s decision.”

Cinven, which is wants to raise more than $12bn for a new private equity fund, has made healthcare investments a core strategy. Its portfolio companies include generic drug maker StadaArzneimittel and scientific measurement company LGC Group.The price of thyroid tablet packs rose from £20 in 2009 to £248 in 2017, the CMA said. The “excessive and unfair” increases meant National Health Service spending on the drug rose to more than £30m by 2016 from £2.3m in 2009, according to the statement.

“We utterly disagree with the CMA’s decision on the pricing of liothyronine tablets and will be appealing,”  a spokesperson for Advanz said. “At all times, Advanz acted in the interest of patients, investing significantly to keep this medicine on the market to the specifications required.”

The CMA fined Advanz and Cinven £43m on July 15, saying that Advanz took payoffs from Auden McKenzie in exchange for agreeing not to compete with the firm. Auden McKenzie, now part of Accord UK, then jacked up the price of its drug by more than 10,000%, the CMA said.

Cinven, Advanz and Accord said they also plan to appeal that decision. Hg declined to comment. Read more: Business Day »

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