European Commission fines drug companies for delaying generics

A bottle of antidepressant pills.</p>

A bottle of antidepressant pills.

The European Commission has fined a group of drug manufacturers, including Denmark’s Lundbeck, Germany’s Merck, Ranbaxy Laboratories, Arrow Group and Zoetis Products, for colluding to keep a generic drug off the market.

Officials for the commission, the European Union’s anti-trust regulator, claim that the companies agreed not to introduce generic versions of Lundbeck’s antidepressant citalopram when its basic patent expired in return for tens of millions of euros of “substantial payments and other inducements from Lundbeck.”

“It is unacceptable that a company pays off its competitors to stay out of its market and delay the entry of cheaper medicines,” Joaquin Almunia, the European competition commissioner, said in a statement on Wednesday, according to The New York Times.

“Agreements of this type directly harm patients and national health systems, which are already under tight budgetary constraints.”

The fines total 146 million euros ($195 million), with Lundbeck receiving the biggest penalty of 93.8 million euros.

“It is wrong and extremely misleading” of the commission “to claim that these agreements have delayed the marketing of citalopram copies and thereby violated competition laws,” Lundbeck’s CEO Ulf Wiinberg said in response to the fine, according to Bloomberg News.

The company said it would appeal.

There’s no doubt US-based drugmakers are watching the case closely. This week, the US Supreme Court ruled that pharmaceutical companies can be sued for paying competitors to delay generics on this side of the Atlantic, too.

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