Drug firms accused of illegal market sharing in supply of antibiotic

The CMA has provisionally found that sellers of the antibiotic Nitrofurantoin broke competition law by arranging to carve up the market between them.


In a Statement of Objections issued today the CMA alleges that, from 2014 until at least October 2017, 2 suppliers, AMCo (now Advanz) and Morningside, and a wholesaler, Alliance Healthcare, entered into arrangements under which Alliance Healthcare would buy equal volumes of the drug from each of the 2 suppliers so that they would not compete. During 2015 and 2016, the 2 suppliers also committed to supply the drug exclusively to Alliance Healthcare.


Nitrofurantoin is an antibiotic commonly used to treat urinary tract infections such as cystitis. While it is available as tablets and a liquid, this investigation focuses on the capsule forms (50mg and 100mg) which are a prescription-only medicine. AMCo was the sole UK supplier of both products, until Morningside entered the market in mid-2014.


The CMA has also provisionally found that, in May 2014, AMCo disclosed sensitive pricing information to Morningside with the aim of reducing competition between them.


In a Statement of Objections issued today, it is provisionally considered that these arrangements prevented or restricted competition. When Morningside started supplying the drug, this was not followed by the price falls that would normally be expected when a new competitor enters the market.


Ann Pope, the CMA’s Senior Director of Antitrust, said:


“Drug companies that break competition law risk forcing the NHS, and UK taxpayers, to pay over the odds for important medical treatments.”


“We’ve provisionally found that suppliers of this important antibiotic entered into arrangements with the aim of keeping Nitrofurantoin prices artificially high, meaning the NHS wouldn’t benefit from the lower prices that come from effective competition.”


These findings are provisional and no conclusion should be drawn at this stage that there has in fact been any breach of competition law. The CMA will carefully consider any representations of the companies under investigation before determining whether the law has been infringed.