Tuesday

11th May 2021

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.

Feature

Frontex 'mislabelling minors as adults' on Greek islands

Lawyers in Greece accuse Frontex of incorrectly labeling minors as 'adults', a violation. Among them was 17-year old William, sent to the adult section of Moria, where he says he was abused. He was later able to prove his age.

Opinion

Has Albania really met the 15 tests to join the EU? No

While I welcome Albania's EU integration, it is questionable whether they have fulfilled all the conditions. It surprises me that the commission claims that Albania already has; to whitewash inconvenient facts will not help neither Albania, nor the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Lukashenko amends emergency transfer of power
  2. German centre-left picks Scholz as would-be chancellor
  3. EU has not ordered AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June
  4. Macron: Pandemic showed need for more EU integration
  5. Election win fuels Scottish nationalists' referendum plan
  6. Surge in migrant arrivals to Italian island
  7. EU embassy pays bail for Georgia opposition leader
  8. British aristocrats caught peddling Kremlin ties

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU and US urge Israel to defuse Jerusalem violence
  2. Frontex 'mislabelling minors as adults' on Greek islands
  3. Has Albania really met the 15 tests to join the EU? No
  4. Vaccine fairness plus Russia on table This WEEK
  5. EU ambassadors flock to Red Square for Putin's parade
  6. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  7. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  8. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us