[u]Top drugs companies raided in EU probe[/u]
European regulators raided some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies in an inquiry into whether they conspired to keep up the price of drugs after patents expired. Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Aventis were among those that confirmed they had been visited as part of a European Commission-led probe into delays in the launch of low-cost generic drugs. Teva, the world’s biggest generics company, was also targeted.
The inquiry will focus on whether the industry has abused patent rights to delay the introduction of low-cost generic alternatives.
It will assess whether companies have made spurious attempts to extend the life of intellectual property rights or cut deals with one generic rival to the exclusion of others.
The European Union is increasingly concerned about the rising cost of medicines and declining innovation. Neelie Kroes, competition commissioner, said: “If we have the feeling that something is rotten in the state, then let’s take the opportunity to find out.”
The raids, which began on Tuesday, broke with European Commission practice in that no advance notice was given. Previous sectoral inquiries were launched with questionnaires sent to companies.
Compiled by James Fontanella