Please sign this petition to help prevent the unethical practice of ‘price gouging’ and protect the NHS from immoral price hikes. This petition supports the establishment of a national UK manufacturer of essential, off-patent medicines to help bring down generic drug prices, preventing 'price gouging'.

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‘Price gouging’ describes how pharmaceutical companies exploit the lack of competition on the market to raise the price of medication, despite them being able to be made very cheaply. The decision by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in July 2021, to fine Auden Mckenzie and Actavis UK (now known as Accord-UK) over £260m for inflating the price of hydrocortisone is an example of this.

As commented by Dr Helen Simpson, ADSHG Medical Trustee and consultant endocrinologist at UCLH when speaking with Billy Kenber from The Times newspaper, these price rises are: “completely immoral...You’ve got a patient who through no fault of their own is on a life-essential medicine, they’ll die if they don’t have it, and the drug companies have just hiked the price for profit."

To take action against this happening again, a petition has been initiated by Professor Karim Meeran, Endocrinologist at Imperial College, to establish a national UK manufacturer of essential, off-patent, generic medicines within the NHS.

Making these medicines at close to production cost can introduce competition to prevent the unethical practice of price gouging for essential medicines. This is not just limited to hydrocortisone, the medication essential for life for those living with Addison’s and adrenal insufficiency. It includes other essential medications such as liothyronine and insulin. This has been proven by the Imperial College London study, led by Professor Karim Meeran, where the team made hydrocortisone and asked the manufacturing company to launch it on the open market. The price rapidly fell between 2017 and 2021, before the CMA had intervened. 

Join us in supporting Professor Karim Meeran’s petition for the NHS to manufacture off-patent, generic drugs (such as hydrocortisone) for its own use to bring down the price and make them more widely available. We speak with Professor Karim Meeran about this petition.

Why is the petition important?

“The World Health Organisation has made a list of essential drugs for any healthcare system, and hydrocortisone is on that list. Although most pharmaceutical companies have been reasonable, there are a few that have abused their position, and many years of review and even threats from the CMA had no impact. It was only in 2017, when we started our research and made hydrocortisone ourselves that the price fell. This made it clear that the best way to keep prices reasonable is to make the drug ourselves. We are not talking about making new drugs that have a patent, but keeping essential cheap drugs widely available. Although hydrocortisone is a case in point, the problem affects lots of other specialities and patients.

If we get enough support, and the government agrees to support the creation of a company that makes cheap drugs in the UK to keep prices down, this will prevent the unsavoury practice of “price gouging”. And we won’t need to threaten companies with legal action, or competition law, as they will automatically reduce their prices to compete with us. It is important that we don’t subsidise the cost of drugs, as we don’t want to make them non-viable.”

What is your hope for the petition and the future?

"I hope that the NHS will get good value for the drugs that it needs, and does not need to sacrifice new hospitals or staff because of the high cost of drugs. Everyone will benefit, because we can treat more people as needed, and drugs that are easy to make and off patent will be made as needed. Companies will not say “it is not worth our while” to make these cheap drugs."

How can our community support the petition and its aims?

"In order to get it discussed in parliament, we need 100,000 signatures. This is not easy, but the current government is strongly supportive of the profit motive, so we need to convince them that such a company is needed for the benefit of the NHS and the people."

Thank you Professor Karim Meeran for speaking with the ADSHG. 

Please share and support this petition!

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  • At 10,000 signatures, government will respond to this petition
  • At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Visit the Imperial website or Twitter for more background to the petition as well as the more recent success from introducing competition for low strength hydrocortisone.

This article was originally featured in our Winter 2021 magazine.

You can read further background on the hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone pricing scandals on our members’ online forum and in previous ADSHG magazine articles.

Although the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has fined some companies, it can be several years too late and hospitals can be forced to cut other services to pay for essential drugs. This is why introducing competition is so important, to help reverse this and guarantee a secure supply of these drugs to protect patients’ health. The ADSHG is pleased to support this vital work and thank you to Professor Karim Meeran and his team.

To learn more about the CMA case, watch their video below or on Twitter and Facebook, where they explain the investigation into the conduct of the pharmaceutical firms who had charged the NHS excessively high prices for hydrocortisone tablets for almost a decade and led to the fines of over £260 million being issued.

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