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Servier fights fine over antitrust breaches

Published on 07/06/17 at 05:14am

Servier, a French pharmaceutical firm, has sought to lower the fine it received from the European Commission for breaching antitrust regulations back in 2014. The company, alongside five producers of generic medicine, were collectively fined €427.7 million for their behaviour regarding Servier’s best-selling blood pressure medicine, perindopril.

The case is still dragging through the courts three years later, as Servier defends itself by suggesting that errors had been committed by regulators in the original case. Particularly, Reuters reports that Servier suggested that the investigation had been biased against the company from the beginning. It also suggested that legal and procedural mistakes had been made.

The original case originated from an investigation from 2008 through to 2009, wherein the European Commission found that the companies had been involved in a pay-to-delay deal. This kind of practice was relatively common, until recently, with arrangements take place that sees a pharmaceutical company exchange money to ensure that generic rivals do not enter the market.

The companies involved in the case were Servier, Lupin, Krka, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Matrix (now part of Mylan), and Unichem.

Each of companies had sought a route to market their own generic versions of perindopril, with Servier initially taking the standard route of filing patent protection for its medicine. However, when this was no longer a viable ‘defence’ against competition, the European Commission alleged that it arranged a series of deals with the generics companies.

It stated, in regards to discussions between Servier and the companies: “One generic company acknowledged that it was being ‘bought out of perindopril’. Another insisted that ‘any settlement will have to be for significant sums’, to which it also referred as a ‘pile of cash’. In total, cash payments from Servier to generics amounted to several tens of millions of euros. In one case, Servier offered a generic company a licence for 7 national markets; in return, the generic company agreed to ‘sacrifice’ all other EU markets and stop efforts to launch its perindopril there.”

The European Commission suggested that the pay-to-delay deal prevented the benefits of generic competition driving down the price of the medicine in question and therefore prevented national health authorities from making savings.

The move comes as part of a wider European push against the so-called pay-to-delay deals, one of which saw the Competition and Markets Authority launch its heaviest ever fine against Pfizer and Flynn Pharma.

Ben Hargreaves

Comments

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