Proposed withdrawal of bipolar disorder treatment revoked

The manufacturer of first-line bipolar disorder treatment Priadel (lithium carbonate) has agreed to continue supplying the NHS with the drug, after negotiating new prices with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Lithium is recommended by NICE as a first-line treatment for bipolar disorder. It's estimated that one in a hundred people have bipolar disorder and one in five of these take lithium. | GETTY IMAGES
Lithium is recommended by NICE as a first-line treatment for bipolar disorder. It's estimated that one in a hundred people have bipolar disorder and one in five of these take lithium. | GETTY IMAGES

Following a campaign by GPs, pharmacists, psychiatrists and patients, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into the proposed withdrawal of Priadel.

The opening of the CMA's investigation led to the manufacturer of Priadel, Essential Pharma, putting the withdrawal on hold whilst negotiating prices with the DHSC. This has resulted in an agreement with the DHSC on revised prices for the treatment.  

Under the new deal, the price for Priadel has increased from £2.76 to £7.50 per pack of 200mg tablets, and from £4.02 to £8.50 per pack of 400mg tablets. Although this means prices have more than doubled, they are still significantly less than the price of Camcolit, the other brand of lithium owned by the same manufacturer, which costs £48.18 for a pack of 400mg tablets. 

Doctors and pharmacists said the withdrawal of Priadel would have put additional pressure on already overstretched health services, substantially increased the price the NHS pays for lithium (approximately £15 million per year), and could have put patients at risk.

The commitments offered by Essential Pharma will last for 5 years and include continuing to supply Priadel within the terms agreed with the DHSC. 

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: 'We’re delighted that negotiations on the price of Priadel have come to this positive conclusion for patients with bipolar disorder. They will now be able to remain on the drug that keeps them stable.'

Drug price tracker

MIMS has recently launched a drug price tracker to help healthcare and industry professionals monitor product price changes.

Updated constantly to ensure healthcare and industry professionals have the latest information, the tracker lists price changes for branded medicines and appliances included in MIMS. It is designed to support medicines optimisation teams to maximise cost efficiencies and to help industry professionals monitor the competitive landscape for their products.

The drug price tracker is available exclusively to MIMS subscribers. For information on subscribing please go to mims.co.uk/subscribe.

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