UK watchdog says MSD may have blocked Remicade biosimilars

Merck, Sharp & Dohme is in trouble with the UK’s competition watchdog, which has said it may have broken competition laws with a discount scheme for its inflammatory diseases drug Remicade (infliximab) amid competition from biosimilar rivals.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) provisionally found that MSD broke competition law by abusing its dominant market position through a discount scheme that was likely to restrict competition from newly-launched biosimilars.

In a statement, the CMA said that as its decision is provisional, no conclusion should be drawn that MSD had actually broken competition laws.

The watchdog said it will “carefully consider” MSD’s response before deciding whether EU competition law has been infringed.

But it said that the CMA proposes to find MSD and parent company Merck & Co “jointly and severally liable” for the alleged infringement.

The CMA gave no further details of the investigation, apart from a case timetable showing the investigation was opened in December 2015, and that the watchdog decided to continue after three rounds of fact-finding.

MSD said in a brief statement that it “is confident that the proceedings will show that MSD has complied with competition law at all times.  The discounts in question meant that infliximab was competitively priced and offered savings to the UK National Health Service, without hindering competition.”

“As a company whose products touch the lives and wellbeing of people around the world, we are committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity.”

Approved in a range of uses including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, Remicade faces competition in the EU from biosimilars manufactured by the South Korean firms Samsung Bioepis and Celltrion.

In some countries such as Denmark, companies marketing the biosimilars have driven the branded drug from the market with aggressive discounting.

But in the NHS uptake has been patchy, sometimes because of arguments over which organisations should benefit from savings.

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