EU Probes J&J And Novartis Over Generic Deals

EU Probes J&J And Novartis Over Generic Deals

October 24th, 2011 // 12:24 pm @

The European Union is investigating agreements between Johnson & Johnson and Novartis to determine whether they illegally conspired to delay the entry of a generic version of the Fentanyl painkiller from entering the Netherlands. If the drugmakers had ‘contractual arrangements’ that hindered a generic, this could breach EU antitrust rules.

The probe is only the latest move by the European Commission against drugmakers that are suspected of striking deals to block the sale of cheaper generics. As part of several investigations over the past few years, EU antitrust regulators have raided offices as they seek documents pertaining to so-called pay-to-delay patent deals that were struck among rivals as part of their investigations.

“I regard this sector as a priority in terms of enforcement of competition rules given its importance for consumers and for governments’ finances,” Joaquín Almunia, vp of the commission in charge of competition policy, says in a statement. “Pharmaceutical companies are already rewarded for their innovation efforts by the patents they are granted. Paying a competitor to stay out of the market is a restriction of competition that the Commission will not tolerate.”

Novartis, of course, owns Sandoz, the big generic drugmaker. A Novartis spokesman writes us to confirm that the drugmaker has received notifcation that the EU has opened an investigation but, “as a matter of policy, we cannot provide any further comment.” We are awaiting a reply from Johnson & Johnson.

[UPDATE: A spokesman for J&J’s Janssen unit writes us to the drugmaker is fully cooperating with the EU, but cannot provide any further info, except to say the probe focuses on contracts with both Sandoz and Hexal, another generic drugmaker that Novartis purchased in 2005. The probe, he adds, covers activities in 2005 and 2006.]

Last year, the EU raided AstraZeneca offices looking for information on its Nexium heartburn med, which is a $5 billion global seller but faces generic competition across Europe (read here). Investigations have also been opened into Servier Lundbeck and Cephalon.

Earlier this year, the EU ended a four-year probe into charges that Boehringer Ingelheim abused the patent system to thwart rivals from launching versions of the best-selling Spiriva med for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. To settle the investigation, the German drugmaker agreed to make changes in its intellectual property protections

Source: Pharmalot

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