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Antitrust regulators in the Netherlands have fined a drug maker $23 million for years of “excessive” price hikes for a rare disease medicine, the latest instance in which European authorities cracked down on the pharmaceutical industry for harming consumers and taxpayers.

In this case, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets cited Leadiant for a complicated set of maneuvers that saw prices rise from the equivalent of $54 in early 2009 to more than $16,000 by 2017 (see more here). The escalating cost caused what the agency called a “large public outcry” until a major medical center in Amsterdam eventually made its own, cheaper version available in 2020.


At issue is a medicine known as CDCA that is used to treat people with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis, or CTX, a rare genetic metabolic disease. A version was available for decades at a low cost, but was bought by Leadiant which, by 2014, raised the price nearly 70 times over. By then, the drug was granted an orphan designation, since only a few dozen people in the Netherlands suffer from the disease.

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