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Makers of Gaviscon cheated NHS

7th March 2008

According to the BBC programme Newsnight, the manufacturers of Gaviscon "cheated the NHS" for years.

Drugs & Money

The stomach medication, made by Reckitt Benckiser, was the centre of a scheme by employees of the firm, who created difficulties for their rivals so they could not make and sell cheaper copies of the drug.

Newsnight was informed that the company charged the health service triple the price of "generic" medication.

Professionals working for the firm made boasts that they had caused delays to the publication of a generic name for the drug. It was meant to be released in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006, but each time the company raised objections, saying that it had health and safety concerns.

However, internal reports - which were meant to be disposed of - released to Newsnight said: "Should we not drag it out as long as possible... nine million pounds of business is at stake".

If the medication had been copied, the NHS could have spent £40 million less since 1999.

More documentation showed the company's desire to thwart the competition by delaying regulation.

The medication currently has almost 90% coverage for use in the health service and has not had a generic name published to date.

Newsnight was told by Reckitt that it had acted responsibly and in an honest and ethical fasion. It denied delaying the publication of a generic name and said: "the timetable of which is not within our control".

The case is expected to be investigated by the government.


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