The UK’s primary competition and consumer authority CMA has accused Actavis of overcharging the NHS for hydrocortisone tablets.

These tablets are used as the primary replacement therapy for people whose adrenal glands do not produce enough natural steroid hormones.

Actavis was formerly known as Auden Mckenzie and has increased the price of 10mg hydrocortisone tablets by more than 12,000% compared to the branded version of the drug sold by another company before April 2008.

The price of 20mg hydrocortisone tablets was also increased by nearly 9,500% compared to the previous branded price.

CMA senior responsible officer Andrew Groves said: “This is a lifesaving drug relied on by thousands of patients, which the NHS has no choice but to continue purchasing.

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“We allege that the company has taken advantage of this situation and the removal of the drug from price regulation, leaving the NHS, and ultimately the taxpayer, footing the bill for the substantial price rises.

"This is a lifesaving drug relied on by thousands of patients, which the NHS has no choice but to continue purchasing."

Last year, about 943,000 packs were dispensed for these tablets in the UK.

CMA issued a statement of objections to Actavis saying it broke competition law by charging excessive and unfair prices in the UK for the drugs.

The NHS invested approximately £522,000 a year on hydrocortisone tablets before April 2008 and by last year the number had increased to £70m a year.

Last week, Pfizer and Flynn Pharma were fined a total of nearly £90m for charging high prices for the anti-epilepsy drug, phenytoin sodium.

Image: Last year, about 943,000 packs were dispensed for hydrocortisone tablets in the UK. Photo: © Crown copyright.