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Europe warns pharma about further competition probes

Published on 01/10/09 at 11:40am

The European Commission has warned the industry a new round of antitrust probes will be coming soon, just as the dust settles on the Commission's previous investigations.

Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition Policy, said the directorate was "now capitalising on our pharmaceutical sector inquiry with new cases".

She gave the warning in a speech to the European Parliament, addressing the committee on economic and monetary affairs.

Kroes said: "With the costs of an aging population (and threats like H1N1 flu), we cannot delay efforts to improve the functioning of this sector. It is important to note that a sector inquiry 'bears fruit' over a number of years - as those who have followed our energy cases will know. So please look out for further news in the coming months."

The previous Commission inquiry into alleged antitrust practices began in January 2008, when investigators carried out dawn raids on generic and innovator companies looking for evidence to back up suspicions that generic launches were being deliberately - and illegally - delayed.

The final report from the probe, published in July 2009, criticised the innovator industry, and said tactical delays of seven months had cost patients and healthcare systems 20% more than necessary.

It vowed to take specific action against French company Servier and a number of generic firms, in order to "intensify its scrutiny of the pharmaceutical sector".

In her latest speech, Kroes said Europe needs a "culture change where more self-discipline is exercised," and that the Commission aims "to keep a level playing field and increase consumer welfare".

Previously both innovative and generic companies were anxious to be seen to cooperate with the Commission, though unhappy to be under such scrutiny.

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