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106/10 15 October 2010
The fine was reduced from £12 million to reflect Reckitt Benckiser's admission and decision to co-operate as part of an early resolution agreement with the OFT.
The agreement follows a Statement of Objections, issued by the OFT on 23 February 2010.
Reckitt Benckiser has admitted infringing UK and European competition law by withdrawing and de-listing Gaviscon Original Liquid from the NHS prescription channel in 2005.
Where a branded medicine's patent has expired and a 'generic name' has been assigned to it, GPs can use their prescribing software to search for the brand and then provide patients with an 'open' prescription that lists its generic name. Pharmacies that receive these prescriptions can choose whether to dispense the relevant brand or equivalent but cheaper generic medicines. This choice provides for strong price competition between pharmaceutical suppliers and can result in considerable savings to the NHS.
The OFT's allegation was that Reckitt Benckiser withdrew NHS packs of Gaviscon Original Liquid from the NHS prescription channel after the product's patent had expired but before the publication of the generic name for it, so that more prescriptions would be issued for its alternative product, Gaviscon Advance Liquid. Pharmacies that receive prescriptions for Gaviscon Advance Liquid must dispense it, as it is patent protected and there are no generic equivalent medicines.
John Fingleton, the OFT Chief Executive, said:
'Vigorous competition between firms supplying the public sector is vital to ensure taxpayers get the best value for money.
'This case underlines our determination to prevent companies with a dominant position in a market from using their strength to seek to restrict competition from rivals. The imposition of penalties should serve to deter firms from engaging in anticompetitive behaviour of this sort in future.
'We welcome Reckitt Benckiser's early co-operation which will enable the swift resolution of this complex case and will reduce the costs of the investigation both for the OFT and for the company itself.'
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