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European pharma companies raided

Published on 07/10/09 at 11:53am

Several pharma companies have been raided as part of ongoing European Commission investigations into competitiveness issues.

Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis and generic manufacturers Teva and Ratiopharm were visited by surprise inspections.

Only last week Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition Policy, warned pharma companies that a new round of antitrust investigations was coming.

The Commission said the raids were the "preliminary steps in the investigation of suspected anticompetitive practices".

It believes Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty - which relate to restrictive business practices and the abuse of a dominant market position - may have been infringed.

The Financial Times suggested the possible breaches were thought to have taken place in France.

Spokesmen from Sanofi-Aventis and Ratiopharm told AFP that they were cooperating with the investigation.

The Commission stressed this week that carrying out the raids "does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself".

There is no fixed deadline for the investigations to conclude, with the length of time taken dependent on the case complexity, cooperation from those involved and legal challenges.

Delaying tactics

The most recent probe began in January 2008 in a bid to find evidence that generic launches were being deliberately delayed.

The Commission's report, published in July, found tactical delays of seven months that cost patients and healthcare systems 20% more than necessary.

Tying cases in complex knots of litigation and multiple filings for a single drug were among the tactics used to slow down the entry of cheaper generics onto the market, it said.

"With the costs of an ageing population (and threats like H1N1 flu) we cannot delay efforts to improve the functioning of this sector," Kroes said.

Action against French company Les Laboratoires Servier and a number of generic firms has already been promised.

At the heart of concerns were deals which allegedly hindered the market entry of Servier's blood pressure drug perindopril in generic form. This time around Servier was not targeted.


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