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EC accuses Lundbeck of preventing market entry for generic Cipramil

Accuses Danish firm of making anticompetitive agreements with Merk KGaA, Ranbaxy and others

Lundbeck HQ

The European Commission (EC) has taken a step forward in its antitrust investigation into whether generic Cipramil (citalopram) was delayed onto the market by issuing the drug's makers Lundbeck with a Statement of Objections.

Danish pharma firm Lundbeck is facing accusations that it conspired with several generic drug makers to prevent their copycat version of the antidepressant reaching the European market, and the EC has now informed the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them.

The Statement was also addressed to Merck KGaA, Generics UK, Arrow, Resolution Chemicals, Xellia Pharmaceuticals, Alpharma, AL Industrier and Ranbaxy, all of which belonged to the generic groups that concluded the agreements.

All companies can now examine the documents on the Commission's investigation file and reply in writing or request an oral hearing to present their defence before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities ahead of a final decision by the EC.

According to the EC, Lundbeck made several agreements with the named generic firms for them to abstain from entering the market with generic citalopram in exchange for “substantial value transfers from Lundbeck”.

These included direct payments from Lundbeck to the generic competitors as well as purchase of generic citalopram stock.

If proved, this behaviour would infringe the EC's ruling that prohibits restrictive business practices, which may have proved harmful to patients, as a cheaper generic alternative to Cipramil only became available two years after it should have been on the market.

Lundbeck defended its position, claiming in a statement its practices are “consistent with all relevant national and EU competition legislation.”

“At this time, Lundbeck has nothing further to add; except that it is confident the allegations made by the Commission should be rejected as groundless,” it added.

In addition, the company hinted that even if the final EC decision went against the company, it would file an appeal with the European Courts, meaning the whole process could take several years to complete.

The investigation stems from a wide-ranging inquiry launch by the EC into anti-competitive behaviour in the pharma industry, with the EC taking up the Lundbeck case in 2010.

Other companies to face investigations include AstraZeneca and Nycomed, although this case was dropped in March 2012.

Meanwhile, there is also an ongoing investigation into whether Johnson and Johnson (J&J) conspired with Novartis' generics division Sandoz to hinder entry of generic versions of pain drug fentanyl into the Netherlands.

French company Servier is also under investigation for its role in the delay of generic perindopril into the European market.

26th July 2012

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