EC Closes Servier Investigation

February 3, 2012
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

The European Commission (EC) has closed an investigation into Servier that accused the company of providing "misleading" and "incorrect" information to the EC?s pharmaceutical sector inquiry.

The European Commission (EC) has closed an investigation into Servier that accused the company of providing “misleading” and “incorrect” information to the EC’s pharmaceutical sector inquiry. Another case examining Servier for breaking EU rules by using restrictive agreements and abusing its dominant marketing position, however, is still ongoing.

At the end of last week, the EC released a statement explaining that it had dropped the investigation, which was launched in 2010, after Servier put forward various arguments as to why the information it supplied in response to the EC’s inquiry was neither misleading nor incorrect. Investigating the arguments would use considerable resources, so the EC has instead decided to focus on the “substantive enforcement of competition rules in a number of pending cases, including one involving Servier”.

The open case began in July 2009, and involves several generic drug companies in addition to Servier. The proceedings concern “unilateral behaviour” by Servier and agreements that may have been made with the specific intention of hindering the European market entry of a generic form of Servier’s cardiovascular medicine perindopril.

The EU pharmaceutical sector inquiry

In 2008–2009, the EC conducted a competition inquiry into the pharmaceutical sector, which included surprise inspections on companies and requests for information, such as documents relating to litigation and settlement agreements. One particular focus for the inquiry was identifying the cause behind the delayed market entry of generic products. The inquiry concluded that generics were being delayed due to four main factors:

  • patenting strategies such as patent clusters
  • disputes and litigation against potential generic competitors
  • patent settlements with generic companies
  • various interventions and the launch of follow-on products.

Since this time, the EC has opened investigations into several companies, including pharma giants Novartis and J&J in 2011. In addition, however, the EC reported in 2011 that it had seen a decrease in “problematic” pharmaceutical patent settlements.

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