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PRICES CUT BY pounds 800M; Victory over 'dear' drugs.

Byline: TRACEY HARRISON

YESTERDAY'S ruling banning the price-fixing of everyday household drugs could save consumers up to pounds 800million.

It was hailed as a "victory for the customer" who Watchdogs say can at last buy over-the-counter medicines at "a fair price". Major superstores will be the first to slash prices from today.

At Asda a pounds 1.75 packet of 16 Anadin will now cost 87p. Sainsbury's is cutting the price of 16 Hedex tablets from pounds 1.65 to 82p.

And 24 Nurofen tablets at Tesco are down from pounds 3.15 to pounds 1.89.

The High Court order brings to an end a battle by the Office of Fair Trading to put a stop to Resale Price Maintenance which allows drug manufacturers to set their own minimum charges.

Mr Justice Buckley abolished the 30-year-old law affecting 2,000 products including painkillers, cold and cough medicines, vitamins and anti-smoking remedies.

The victory came after the Community Pharmacy Action Group representing 12,000 local chemists "reluctantly" abandoned its legal battle to the OFT's challenge.

Last night they were still arguing that the ban will force up to 3,000 local pharmacists to close, and make life difficult for others.

But OFT director general John Vickers said: "This is excellent news for consumers.

"They will now benefit from lower and more competitive prices for common household medicines."

The CPAG last night predicted a gloomy future for local chemists.

Chairman David Sharpe said: "Many will not be able to survive given the buying power and pricing tactics of supermarkets."

The end of RPM was bad news for Boots, which has about 40 per cent of the pharmacy market.

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DOWN: Nurofen painkillers have been reduced at Tesco
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 16, 2001
Words:287
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