Brussels widens anti-trust probe over generic medicines
(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission has extended an anti-trust probe into French pharmaceutical maker Les Laboratoires Servier to include the Danish laboratory Lundbeck, the EU's executive said Wednesday.
Both companies are suspected of breaching EU rules by making agreements with generic companies to delay the arrival of drugs onto the European market.
Servier is suspected of trying to delay generic perindopril, a cardio-vascular medicine, whilst Lundbeck allegedly hindered the arrival of the antidepressant drug citalopram.
The European commissioner in charge of competition, Joaquin Almunia, said Wednesday: "We have reached preliminary conclusions that these companies may have restricted competition by preventing the entry of two medecines...".
"If confirmed, this behaviour may have caused substantial harm to the use of these medecines.
"(...) This is a sector in which we are working very hard to avoid any breach of competition rules. European citizens need to be able to access quality healthcare at an affordable price in particular in this period of significant constraint."
The European Commission said it was planning to take "further steps in the coming days" in the Servier investigation, which began three years ago.
Generic products are far cheaper than brand medicines -- on average generics cost 40 percent less two years after they enter the market -- and save patients and insurance firms money while remaining just as effective.
Servier said in a statement that it had "always cooperated with European Commission services" and that it would respond to the executive's objections "with proper arguments because (Servier) is convinced that it has not committed any offence relating to competition rules".
Lundbeck meanwhile allegedly made agreements with four generic companies which included, said the Commission, "direct payments as well as other forms such as purchase of generic citalophram stock for destruction or guaranteed profits in a distribution agreement."
The Danish firm denied the allegations in a statement on its website.
"Lundbeck vigorously opposes any allegation of wrongdoing and does not believe its practice has violated European competition law."
It said it was "cooperating fully" with the EC investigation and would address the concerns raised by the Commission.
If they are found guilty of breaking the rules, the two companies face heavy fines of up to 10 percent of their turnover.
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