Investigation into AstraZeneca and Nycomed closed
By Sophie Mosca | Thursday 01 March 2012
AstraZeneca and Nycomed were “cleared” of suspicions of commercial agreements aimed at delaying the entry onto the market of competitor generic products – a practice that is contrary to EU competition law, which bans restrictive commercial practices and the abuse of dominant position.
On 1 March, the European Commission announced that it has ceased its anti-trust investigation into the Swedish and British pharmaceutical group and the Swiss generic medicine manufacturer “because there is no proof” of a collusion between them. The Commission, which is the guardian of competition in the EU, had carried out searches on the premises of the two laboratories, as part of an investigation into the presumed practices – individual or joint – aimed at delaying the entry onto the market of generic medicines esomeprazole, the same active ingredient as in Nexium, by Astrazeneca, the main treatment for pain caused by ulcers and gastrointestinal refluxes for which the company had just lost its patent (in March 2010). Yet this was one of the most sold drugs in the world and it represented close to 20% of AstraZeneca’s turnover – which therefore had a vested interest in reaching agreements with generic medicine enterprises so that they would agree to postpone the commercialisation of their cheaper alternative solutions.
The Commission is keeping a close eye on pharmaceutical laboratories and is very vigilant regarding these practices that block generic drugs manufacturers – indeed the patients and the health care systems are the ones that quite literally pay the price.
In 2008 and 2009, the Commission carried out a broad investigation into competition in this specific pharmaceutical sector, and it is closely examining such agreements. In 2009, the Commission delivered a report on the subject.