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After a lengthy investigation, the U.K. antitrust regulator has fined several drug makers a record-setting $370 million for their role in an “egregious” scheme to significantly hike the cost of medicines and delay the sale of lower-cost versions.

At issue was the cost of hydrocortisone tablets, which cost the U.K. government and taxpayers $110 million annually by 2016. up from roughly $700,000 in 2008. During that time, Auden Mckenzie and Actavis UK, which is now known as Accord UK, increased the price by more than 10,000%. For instance, the National Health Service paid $142 for a 20m pack in 2016, up from $1.48 in 2008.


The two drug makers also paid off generic manufacturers to postpone the sale of their own tablets, a move that made it easier to raise prices, according to the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority. The scheme meant that the NHS had no choice but to pay “huge sums” for the life-saving steroid. As a result, the NHS has the right to pursue damages.

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