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Pharma raises less anti-trust concerns

Pharmaceutical companies are raising fewer anti-trust concerns in their attempts to keep generic competitors off the market, finds an EC report

Pharmaceutical companies are raising fewer anti-trust concerns in their attempts to keep generic competitors off the market, a report from the European Commission (EC) has found.

The percentage of "potentially problematic" patent settlements in Europe between branded drugmakers and producers of lower-priced generic medicines have more than halved compared with the results of an earlier investigation. The money involved in the settlements also fell.

The investigation, which began in January 2010, found that settlements viewed as anti-competitive between July 2008 and December 2009 totalled 10 per cent of all patent deals, compared with 22 per cent during January 2000 and June 2008.

In the 18 months covered by the survey, 93 patent settlement agreements were made between originator companies and generics drugmakers. This compares with 207 agreements reached during the 7.5 years covered by the original inquiry.

Joaquin Almunia, the EU competition commissioner said: "Patent settlements are an effective means to end patent-related disputes and litigation. However, some of them may be anti-competitive."

She added: "Our report appears to show the sector's increased awareness of the potential competition concerns. But the commission will remain attentive to ensure that the sale of safe, affordable medicines is not delayed by unfair practices."

The EC noted that it would "frown at agreements that contain restrictions," explaining that those "that may prove problematic are those that limit generic entry and foresee a value transfer from originator to generic company."

Not all settlements falling into the potentially problematic category warrant an immediate in-depth anti-trust investigation by the EC. Each case will be assessed on its merits.

6th July 2010

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