Monday

22nd Apr 2019

EU fines Danish pharma-giant in first 'pay for delay' case

  • The fine is the EU's first 'pay for delay' case (Photo: Grumpy-Puddin)

The European Commission has fined Danish pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck €93.8 million, saying it paid rival companies to delay production of generic versions of anti-depressant medication Citalopram.

It is the first "pay for delay" case brought by the EU.

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The EU's executive arm focused on 2002, when patent protection for the molecule used to make Citalopram lapsed and rival pharmaceutical firms were able to produce generic versions of its drug.

Lundbeck - the so-called "originator" of the medicine - reacted by paying off rivals not to go ahead, the commission says.

In its ruling, the commission referred to internal documents describing a "club" being formed and "a pile of $$$" to be shared among the participants.

Citalopram is one of the most widely prescribed anti-depressants on the market and remains Lundbeck's most lucrative product.

In 2012, the company reported revenues of 15 billion DKK (€2 billion).

EU competition chief Joaquin Almunia said the illicit deal had been at the "expense of patients who were deprived of access to cheaper medicines. It also harmed our public health systems, who for a longer period had to artificially bear the costs of an expensive medicine."

He noted that prices of Citalopram in the UK dropped by around 90 percent once generic versions of the drug entered the market.

The Commission also levied fines totalling €52.2 million on other companies involved in the scheme: Zoetis, Merck, Mylan, Actavis and Ranbaxy.

In a statement, Lundbeck said it would appeal against the decision, insisting that it had "acted transparently and in good faith in trying to protect our patents."

"The agreements did not restrict competition in the market beyond the protection already offered by society via the patent rights Lundbeck already held and as has been confirmed by the European Patent Office," it added.

The fine from the EU executive comes just two days after a ruling by the US supreme court that pay for delay deals should be subject to antitrust scrutiny.

EU officials say the US ruling did not play a part in their decision , however.

For his part, Almunia indicated that three additional "pay for delay" cases are currently under scrutiny.

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