(by Farasat Bokhari & Bruce Lyons)
Last week the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) imposed a fine of approximately £90 million on Pfizer and a generic manufacturer Flynn Pharma, on the grounds that each abused a dominant position by charging excessive and unfair prices for phenytoin sodium capsules, an anti-epilepsy drug (brand name Epanutin). The price of a pack of 84 capsules of 100MG increased from £2.83 to £67.50 in October 2012. This came about as part of a deal where Pfizer sold the distribution rights in the UK to Flynn Pharma, who in turn ‘de-branded’ the drug, and sold the generic at an inflated price. The drug in question is not protected by any patents, so other generics are available and further generic entry is possible, yet the branded original drug was replaced by a higher priced generic. The CMA’s case is a rare example of an abuse of dominance finding (under Art. 102 and/or Ch.2 of CA98) in relation to exploitative pricing. While we await the full published decision, it is worth looking at industry price and quantity data to contextualise the CMA’s case. We also try to understand how this price hike was possible and ask whether the CMA should pursue more exploitative pricing cases.
By Dr David Hugh-Jones
After the Brexit vote, a standard story is doing the rounds: the poor and uneducated are threatened by globalization. They respond atavistically, asserting their superiority over ethnic outsiders. As a result, they are fooled into voting against their own interests, for racist parties who do not really care about them.
This explanation comes in various flavours. To make it more left-wing, substitute “neoliberal world order” for “globalization”. But the basic recipe is widely reused. Obama talked about people “clinging to guns and religion”. This year, we are told it explains why people are voting for Trump.
There are some specific problems with applying this idea to Brexit. The context for the British vote was not just “globalization”: it was free movement of labour in the EU, combined with policy failures elsewhere that have led large numbers of people to seek employment in the UK.
Here’s a more basic question. Is nationalism truly irrational?
By Dr Farasat Bokhari
This article originally appeared in STAT on 28th September 2016.
Banning “pay-for-delay” deals that postpone the production of less-expensive generic drugs is a key action point in Hillary Clinton’s comprehensive plan to lower prescription drug costs. Eliminating these deals, she says, could save Americans billions of dollars on medications. But an even more productive strategy would be to stop drug makers from producing so-called authorized generics. (I tried to examine Donald Trump’s thoughts on this issue. While his website says he will remove “barriers to entry into free markets for drug providers,” no details are provided and no mention is made of pay-for-delay deals.)
A patent on a new therapeutic molecule is granted for 20 years, though its validity can be challenged at any time. Much of that 20-year window is often spent formulating the drug and testing it in animal studies and clinical trials. Acknowledging this delay, the Hatch-Waxman Act provides an incentive for drug development by granting the patent holder five years of market exclusivity during which no competitor can file to produce a generic variant. Not surprisingly, the price of the drug is high during this period.
By Dr Farasat Bokhari
In a new development surrounding the controversy of price hikes of Mylan’s lifesaving drug EpiPen, the manufacturer announced that it will introduce a generic version, and sell the new drug at half the price of its branded version. Mylan has increased the price of its EpiPen injections from about $100 in 2009 to over $600 this year and will sell the generic at $300, and has come under scrutiny and strong criticism from public and government officials alike. Mylan are not alone in increasing drug prices in recent times. For instance, Martin Shkreli increased the price of Daraprim by 5000 percent in 2015. However, that was to do with a hit-and-run opportunity that arose out of its orphan drug status, and the speed with which a rival generic could gain approval to enter the market (see my earlier post, ‘The Economics of a $750 Pill’).
Leaving aside the issue that the generic is still three times more expensive than the original 2009 price, this announcement has left some puzzling over why, or rather how, such a move makes any sense. To paraphrase the incredulity expressed by Richard Quest of CNN, why would anyone pay $600 for a drug when the exact same product by the same company is also available for $300? How does Mylan stand to gain anything from this move?
By Dr Fabio Aricò
The media and the press have bashed us with endless sequences of statistics and figures about the loss of fee revenues and research funding universities would incur as the result of a Brexit. There is no doubt that this is a real threat for the health of the British Higher Education system, but when thinking education we should not focus exclusively on money matters: quality is the real concern. I am an immigrant academic, who had to compete to secure an academic job in the UK. More than that, I am the teacher of a large and internationally diverse group of students, and I can appreciate the benefits of working in an internationalised campus environment. In this post I will argue that competition among academics, and diversity within the student population, are the key determinants of quality and excellence of the British Higher Education system. Brexit is a threat to such excellence, and here are the reasons why.
By Dr Anders Poulsen
I believe this is likely, in part because of the simple calculus of cost benefit analysis that may favour Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, but in part also because the EU may offer such favourable terms to Scotland to join them, not necessarily because it makes economic sense for the EU to do so, but because punishment is a behavioural phenomenon that we often see in our experiments. I explain these below.
By Dr Christa Brunnschweiler
I’ve been following the discussion of the various costs (or benefits) for the UK of leaving the EU for a while now. I follow them as a not entirely disinterested outsider: I am not eligible to vote in the upcoming referendum on 23 June, but I am a citizen of another European country and can expect to be affected by the vote’s outcome.