Thursday

15th Nov 2018

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Analysis

Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)

The main points of the Brexit withdrawal deal between London and Brussels dissected. Although the EU is preparing to sign the agreement, the UK government has been rocked by resignations since its publication less than 24 hours ago.

Opinion

US steps in to clean up Cyprus

Cyprus has overlooked undertakings on bank probity made to the EU in the context of the 2013 bailout - but it might prove harder to get the US off its back.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  2. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  3. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown
  4. Second UK cabinet minister resigns over Brexit deal
  5. UK Brexit secretary quits morning after deal agreed
  6. Romanian MPs call for national 'Magnitsky Act'
  7. Tusk: Brexit summit on Sunday 25 November
  8. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  2. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  3. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  4. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  5. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  6. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  7. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  8. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us