UK patients who use the common bipolar drug Priadel may have to brace themselves for a possible withdrawal of the drug from the market by its pharma company. Fortunately, such a move might be thwarted as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) watchdog launched an investigation into the proposed act.

CMA launched a probe against Essential Pharma, maker of Priadel, a widely-used bipolar drug that the company sells to the National Health Service (NHS). The CMA is checking whether the pharmaceutical company abused its position of being the dominant player that sells treatment for the bipolar drug.

The investigation was brought about as a withdrawal of Priadel by Essential Pharma from the market would mean compelling patients to purchase another drug in the form of lithium treatments, which is more expensive. Ironically, this drug called Camcolit is also supplied by Essential Pharma.

CMA viewed the move as anti-competitive, more so that it is bound to adversely impact more than 50,000 patients across the UK. Aside from the thousands of patients who will be affected, charities and medical bodies have warned that patients face difficulty if a switch of bipolar medications is made. This raised the possibility of having to deal with health complications upon switching.

The CMA noted that concern is high on the proposed move of Essential Pharma, considering that the NHS is experiencing so much pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) already appealed to CMA to impose intervening measures that would momentarily pause the withdrawal of Priadel from the market while the pharma is still being investigated.

On the other hand, Essential Pharma, later agreed that it will continue supplying Priadel, while discussions on pricing are still being facilitated. This will give patients a breather as the continued supply will diminish the threat to their mental health.

It must be noted though that the investigation and the abatement on the withdrawal will not conclusively lead to a permanent non-withdrawal of Priadel from the market. If negotiations on the price will not result in a positive outcome, there is still a possibility of the drug being withdrawn by the pharmaceutical company.

Essential Pharma plans to withdraw bipolar drug. Photo: Pixabay

Whether Essential Pharma broke anti-competition laws, is still something that needs to be resolved. In the event it is proven that the company did so, it can be fined up to 10 percent of its annual income.