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Tuesday 25th June 2019

NHS sues Gaviscon for £90m

18th April 2011

The manufacturers of the heartburn remedy Gaviscon are in the process of being sued by the health service for almost £90 millon.

Pound Sign

The NHS has alleged that Reckitt Benckiser charged doctors for a more costly version of the medicine when a less expensive one existed.

The company, which also makes Nurofen and Clearasil, has already been given a £10.2 million fine by the Office of Fair Trading after it admitted breaking UK and EU legislation with the sale of the medicine to the health service.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, along with 146 primary care trusts and ten strategic health authorities, is taking the manufacturer to the High Court.

Reckitt Benckiser's Gaviscon Original was one of the most frequently prescribed remedies used by the NHS.

The patent for this product was due for expiry in 2005, which would have allowed other firms to produce similar remedies at far lower prices.

However, Reckitt acted in a way which the health service said blocked this process.

It took the remedy off the NHS approved list of medications, but it did not put forward a generic name which would have allowed cheaper versions to enter the market.

Instead the company proposed Gaviscon Advance, which was still patented, so doctors did not have another option.

The company's plan to "expose the NHS to excess drug costs" was exposed when an anonymous source spoke to the BBC’s Newsnight programme in 2008.

The source said: "Reckitt cheated the Health Service. It could have saved the NHS millions of pounds. I felt it had to be exposed."

Reckitt Benckiser said it was "shocked" by the accusations and added: "Reckitt Benckiser is a responsible company."

Although the company said it had not cheated the NHS, it did admit to failing to allow competition and said it was "unhappy with some of the language and the sentiment ... in the [leaked] internal correspondence, which are inappropriate".


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