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Competition watchdog says HRT drug deal could raise prices

The competition watchdog has found that women needing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might see higher prices if a deal between two businesses is allowed to go ahead.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that an initial investigation had found that the plan for Theramex to buy the European rights to two drugs could reduce competition.

Last year, the London-based women’s health company said it would buy the rights to Duphaston and Femoston HRT from US company Viatris.

Theramex is already one of the largest players in the UK’s market for “systemic” HRT. Systemic HRT drugs treat the whole body, rather than just a localised area.

It supplies oestrogen patches as well as oestrogen and progestogen patches and pills.

“The CMA is concerned that the deal 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,” the watchdog said.

“The reduction of HRT alternatives in a market that is already highly concentrated could reduce choice and also lead to potential price increases, as well as raising concerns about the security of supply.”

The companies have five days to respond to the concerns with “meaningful solutions” or risk facing a phase 2 investigation from the watchdog.

Senior director for mergers Sorcha O’Carroll said: “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.”