EU warns of antitrust probes into drug makers
July 8, 2009
The European Union warned of a wave of antitrust investigations into major drug makers, saying they were deliberately stalling cheaper generic versions of their own medicines once exclusive patents expire, reported by the Associated Press. The Commission will now step up its antitrust enforcement and monitor deals between major and generic drug makers. The EU also started an investigation into France''s Les Laboratoires Servier for hindering the launch of generic versions of its heart disease drug perindopril. Regulators said they suspected that Servier did deals with generic rivals Krka, Lupin, Matrix, Niche Generics Ltd and Teva to hold back cheaper versions. The EU''s antitrust division called for a EU-wide patent and litigation system and for national governments to speed up generic drug approvals. But it blamed drug makers too for trying to discredit generics with misleading campaigns and misusing marketing authorizations to delay generic launches. The EU says generic drugs are on average 40-percent cheaper than their branded rivals two years after they launch and play a key role in driving down health costs for Europe''s aging and ailing population. The European Commission said it would monitor deals between major pharmaceutical companies and generic drug makers. EFPIA says companies have a right to defend patents for the medicines they develop and that the vast majority of these deals help competition because they settle legal action and allow the transfer of technology from one company to another. The EU report found that generic versions often don''t launch until at least seven months after the patent on the original version expires. This cost European patients some euro3 billion more for medicines between 2000 and 2007, it said. The European Union spent euro214 billion on medicines in 2007, or euro430 per person. State health insurance programs carry most of that cost. Regulators said there was a decline in the number of new drugs reaching the market. They gave no details but said it would closely monitor the pharmaceutical market to check what is holding back innovation. Only 27 new types of drugs were launched from 2000 to 2004, far fewer than the 40 that hit the market from 1995 to 1999, it said. Pharmaceutical companies are under pressure from the loss of exclusive patents over top-selling drugs and higher costs for research and development. Many are cutting costs and staff to try and stay profitable.