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European Commission launches new generic deal review

Published on 18/01/11 at 11:07am

The European Commission has asked a number of firms to submit copies of their patent settlements in 2010 to see whether the number of 'problematic agreements' is continuing to fall.

European Union antitrust officials have told “a selected number of pharma companies” to submit details of patent-settlement deals it believe may have been used to delay the sale of generic versions of medicines.

In November the offices of AstraZeneca and Nycomed were raided by EU anti-trust officials due to alleged to block generic competitors reaching the market, but the European Commission has refused to say which pharma companies are involved in the new investigation.

When contacted by Pharmafocus Bayer, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline all said they had not as yet received any contact from the EU over this matter, but the companies did not rule out the possibility they could receive something in the next week. 

The Commission’s new monitoring exercise follows its competition sector inquiry in 2009, which pointed to “significant risks” for European consumers stemming from certain types of patent settlements.

That inquiry found that certain patent settlements could cause “consumer harm” because they “delay the market entry of cheaper generic medicines”.

The Commission said it would analyse the agreements submitted in the light of these findings and publish a report providing a statistical overview in the first half of 2011.

If a specific settlement raises additional questions, a more targeted request for information could follow, it said in a statement.

Joaquín Almunia, Commission VP in charge of competition policy, said: “Patent settlements are an area of particular concern because they may delay the market entry of generic medicines.

“The outcome of our first monitoring exercise showed that potentially problematic agreements had decreased significantly since the Commission’s sector inquiry.

“The 2011 monitoring exercise is important to assess whether this positive trend is confirmed and to identify potentially problematic patent settlements,” Almunia added.

Ben Adams

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