Wednesday

30th Nov 2022

Something 'rotten' in EU pharmaceutical sector, says Kroes

  • The commission report points to widespread collusion between European drug makers (Photo: www.freeimages.co.uk)

European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes turned to Shakespeare on Wednesday (8 July) to describe anti-competition practices being widely used by pharmaceutical companies throughout the European union.

"Overall it is indeed a conclusion that there is something rotten in the state," she said, paraphrasing comments made by the character Marcellus in Act I of the British playwright's famous work, Hamlet.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Ms Kroes made the statement following the publication of a final inquiry report on Europe's pharmaceutical sector – a document that points to widespread collusion between drug companies producing original products and others producing generic copies.

According to the report, a considerable number of generic drug producers have accepted payments to delay the release of medicines that are on average 40 percent cheaper than the original product two years after its initial release.

Sending a clear signal that it means to crack down on the practice that results in European citizens paying more for their medicines, the commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation against French company Les Laboratoires Servier and a number of generic drug producers suspected of collusion.

"When it comes to generic entry, every week and month of delay costs money to patients and taxpayers. We will not hesitate to apply the antitrust rules where such delays result from anticompetitive practices," said Ms Kroes.

The case, the first of its kind, surrounds the production of a generic form of perindopril, a cardiovascular medicine used to prevent heart disease and lower blood pressure originally developed by Servier.

The commission says it has evidence of a least a further 200 incidences of illegal agreements between European drug companies, all of which could lead to fines if sufficient evidence is found.

"We hoped to get out a case that is really damaging," said Ms Kroes when asked why the commission had concentrated its first case on Servier and not on other suspected companies, some of which are considerably bigger.

The debate over artificially inflated drug prices is particularly relevant at present as Europe's population grows older and the prospects for both private and public pensions look shakier due to the financial crisis.

"With the ageing population we are going to need more medicine," said Ms Kroes.

European citizens currently spend €214 billion per year on pharmaceuticals, equivalent to 2 percent of the bloc's total GDP or €430 per year per citizen.

The commission report also calls on member states to introduce legislation to facilitate the uptake of generic drugs and says a community patent and specialised patent litigation system in Europe is now more necessary than ever.

At present 30 percent of patent court cases are conducted in parallel in several member states, and in 11 percent of cases national courts reach conflicting judgements.

Opinion

Why are our medicines so expensive?

The EU should be promoting open innovation in upcoming trade talks with India and should work to bring down the prices of essential medicines, both abroad and within its borders.

EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary

Prime minister Viktor Orbán's government has to implement 27 measures "fully and correctly" before any payment from the €5.8bn recovery fund can be made, or the suspended €7.5bn of cohesion funds can be unblocked.

Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Terezija Gras from Croatia, Dutchman Hans Leijtens, and Frontex's current interim executive director Aija Kalnaja, are all competing for a job left vacant by the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Terezija Gras from Croatia, Dutchman Hans Leijtens, and Frontex's current interim executive director Aija Kalnaja, are all competing for a job left vacant by the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us