[Ip-health] news: Bay Ledger News Zone - EU steps up generic pharma anti-trust probe

Marine Avrillon Marine at haieurope.org
Mon Dec 6 01:56:41 PST 2010

EU steps up generic pharma anti-trust probe

By Staff Reporter

AFP Global Edition


Dec 03, 2010


Europe stepped up action against drug companies snarling up the entry of
cheaper generic medicines onto markets, announcing Friday spot
inspections confirmed by British No.2 AstraZeneca.


A spokeswoman for Britain's second biggest drugmaker by sales after
market leader GlaxoSmithKline told AFP that it had been inspected in
checks relating to heartburn and ulcer drug Nexium.


AstraZeneca's top seller until last year, Nexium contributed 3.7 billion
dollars to turnover just in the first nine months of this year. The
company was previously fined in 2005 in a similar case, the sum being
reduced to 52.5 million euros after a European court appeal.


France's Sanofi-Aventis, Switzerland's Novartis and Roche and Belgium's
UCB each said they had not been targeted.


"A limited number of companies active in the pharmaceutical sector in
several member states" were targeted, Brussels said.


The European Commission "has reason to believe that the companies
concerned may have acted individually or jointly, notably to delay
generic entry for a particular medicine," it added.


The AstraZeneca spokeswoman said visits "relate to alleged practices
regarding esomeprazole (Nexium) in Europe and we're cooperating with the


European citizens spend hundreds of euros on medicine each year, with
the market worth hundreds of billions of euros at retail prices,
according to commission data.


The relationship between companies that patent their products as
brand-named medicine, as well as their ties with generic drug producers,
has been a focus for commission inspectors over recent years.


Generic drugs are cheaper and save patients and insurance firms money
without compromising on effectiveness.


But some companies have in the past been accused of using patent filings
to stop generic medicines hitting the market, or tying up potential
competitors for years in legal disputes.


In the worst example uncovered, 1,300 separate patent filings were made
for a single medicine across the 27-nation EU.





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