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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 11:14 GMT
Q&A: NHS sues drugs companies
The companies make generic drugs
The NHS is suing seven drug companies claiming they fixed the price of common prescription medicines.

BBC News Online examines the claims and the background to this case.

Who is the NHS suing?

The NHS is suing seven pharmaceutical companies.

These are Norton Healthcare, Norton Pharmaceuticals, Regent-GM, Kent Pharmaceuticals, Generics UK, Ranbaxy UK and DDSA Pharmaceuticals.

They are all makers of generic or non-brand medicines.

Why is the NHS suing these companies?

The NHS claims that these companies colluded to fix the price of common prescription medicines between 1997 and 1998.

The NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service, which is spearheading the case, alleges that they worked together to keep the price of some drugs artificially high.

It alleges that they kept costs high by reducing supply and refusing to sell below a certain price.

In documents submitted to the High Court, it alleges that representatives of these companies met to agree the strategy.

What are the companies saying?

The companies named in the case have strenuously denied the claims.

They have said that there is no evidence to back up the allegations and have vowed to fight the case when it comes to court.

One company suggested that the cost of some of these drugs increased partly because of new rules on packaging.

It insisted the firms did not collude to fix the price of these drugs.

What is the background to this case?

The NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service has been investigating alleged price-fixing of drugs for over a year.

It has launched a multi-million pound claim last year against a number of companies who make the blood-thinning drug warfarin.

Officials have indicated that their investigations are far from complete and that more cases may be in the pipeline.


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