A £10m Department of Health contract to provide civil litigation arbitration and mediation with companies in the pharmaceutical industry, which comes into force tomorrow, has been awarded to five firms.

The successful firms are: London firm Peters & Peters; Capsticks, which has offices in London, Birmingham, Leeds and Winchester; and international firms Hill Dickinson; Trowers and Hamlins; and Berwin Leighton Paisner.

Under the five-year contract, the firms will provide exploratory legal and professional advice, market structure analysis (incorporating financial analysis) and representation in civil proceedings.

The government said the scope of civil proceedings may include, but will not be limited to, investigation into deceit, anti-competitive agreements, patent infringement and companies abusing dominant market positions.

The government's legal panels have been in the spotlight for nearly two years after the Gazette revealed that the government had delayed a review of its legal panel arrangements pending a procurement overhaul. 

Despite increasing the value of a panel to provide general legal advice services from £320m to £400m for two years, the government slashed the supplier pool by nearly two-thirds.

Eight firms secured coveted spots on a £50m panel contract for specialist advice on modernisation projects including Crossrail and High Speed 2.

The full line-up for a new panel that will advise the government on complex financial and legal advice was announced earlier this week, with all but one of the magic circle firms getting the nod.