Brussels: European Union (EU) regulators are investigating some drug firms over suspected antitrust practices that include deals with makers of cheap generics to delay drugs’ market entry, the European Commission said on Wednesday.
In her final report of a probe into the pharmaceuticals sector, EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said delays in bringing cheaper generic medicines to the market had pushed up consumers’ bills by 20% between 2000 and 2007.
Health check: EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes says delays in bringing cheaper generic medicines to the market had pushed up consumers’ bills by 20% between 2000 and 2007. Reuters
“The first antitrust investigations are already under way, and regulatory adjustments are expected to follow dealing with a range of problems in the sector,” Kroes said. The commission statement did not identify any companies under investigation.
But separately, the EU’s executive arm announced an antitrust investigation into privately owned French drug maker Servier Laboratories and generics firms Krka d.d, Lupin Ltd, Matrix Laboratories Ltd, now a unit of Mylan Inc., Niche Generics Ltd, part of Unichem Laboratories Ltd, and Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
The commission said its investigation concerned unilateral behaviour by Servier and deals which may have blocked the entry of generic perindopril, a cardio-vascular drug originally developed by Les Laboratoires Servier, into the European Economic Area.
Kroes launched her sector investigation in January 2008 with a series of raids on makers of brand-name drugs, including AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Merck and Sanofi-Aventis.
Settlement deals have also come under fire in the US, with the Federal Trade Commission last month estimating the cost to consumers at $3.5 billion a year. Legislation pending in the US Congress would ban such deals.
Drug makers blame most of the delays on regulatory and other bureaucratic issues, rather than deliberate action by companies.
The EU executive said it would examine current EU rules on price and reimbursement, urged European countries to introduce legislation to facilitate the entry of generics and stress the need for a Europe-wide patent.