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Drug companies must ‘offer solutions’ to assuage HRT competition worries

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Drug companies must ‘offer solutions’ to assuage HRT competition worries

The Competition and Markets Authority has asked two pharmaceutical companies to “offer solutions” to assuage competition concerns arising from a specialist HRT manufacturer acquiring the European rights to an additional two hormone products.

In a statement today (April 4), the CMA revealed it plans to launch an “in-depth” Phase 2 investigation into Theramex’s acquisition of the Duphaston and Femoston HRT product ranges from Viatris last year unless the two companies provide “meaningful solutions” within five working days.

An initial Phase 1 review by the CMA determined that Theramex is “one of the largest suppliers in the systemic HRT market in the UK,” supplying oestrogen patches and combined oestrogen and progestogen patches and pills.

Viatris’s Femoston has been an “important competitive alternative to Theramex’s products,” said the watchdog, which in November imposed an enforcement order barring the deal from taking effect until it concludes the case.

The CMA said it is “concerned” the acquisition “could reduce competition in this important market, the cost of which is often covered by the NHS, by reducing incentives to bring new products to the market and improve and promote existing products,” as well as potentially causing price hikes and “raising concerns about the security of supply”.

Concerns were also raised around a possible future lessening of competition in the UK market for dydrogesterone, with the CMA citing “evidence to suggest that without the merger there may have been greater competition to bring dydrogesterone products to the UK market”. 

Sorcha O’Carroll, senior mergers director at the CMA, commented: “HRT plays a critical role in treating symptoms which impact the everyday lives of millions of women.

“We’re concerned this deal between Theramex and Viatris – which transfers control of Femoston and Duphaston in the. UK and Europe – may reduce competition and lead to higher prices, as well as preventing new treatments being brought to market.

“Our door is now open to the firms to offer solutions to our concerns, otherwise this case will proceed to a more in-depth investigation.”

Neither Viatris nor Theramex responded to requests for comment. When it announced the completion of the deal in December, Theramex described it as a “substantial investment” that demonstrated its “commitment to women’s health” but acknowledged that the product licences will remain with Viatris pending regulatory approval.

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