H. Lundbeck A/S (LUN), the Nordic region’s second-largest drugmaker, was sent a formal antitrust complaint by European Union antitrust regulators for hampering the sale of generic versions of antidepressant citalopram.
The European Commission said it also sent complaints to generic manufacturers Merck KGaA (MRK), Generics UK, Arrow, Resolution Chemicals, Xellia Pharmaceuticals, Alpharma, A.L. Industrier and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. (RBXY) for agreeing to pay-for-delay deals with Lundbeck. Les Laboratoires Servier will also be sent a statement of objections in the probe, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.
“The companies entered into agreements that foresaw substantial value transfers from Lundbeck to its four generic competitors, who subsequently abstained from entering the market,” the EU antitrust authority said in a statement. “The value transfers included direct payments from Lundbeck to the generic competitors and also occurred in other forms, such as the purchase of generic citalopram stock for destruction or guaranteed profits in a distribution agreement.”
The Lundbeck probe is the EU’s first case investigating pay-for-delay agreements, regulators said. Lundbeck developed citalopram, which belongs to a class of antidepressant medicines known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The drug was marketed under the name Celexa.
“Lundbeck vigorously opposes any allegation of wrongdoing and does not believe its practice has violated European competition law,” the Copenhagen-based company said in a statement. “It is confident that all allegations made by the commission should be rejected as groundless.”
Ranbaxy declined to immediately comment. Lucy Vincent, a spokeswoman for Servier, wasn’t immediately reachable for a comment.
Commission officials raided the offices of Lundbeck, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA), the world’s biggest generic-drug maker, and other companies in 2009 as part of an antitrust investigation. The surprise inspections marked the fourth time companies’ offices had been visited since the EU started a probe of the pharmaceutical industry in January 2008.
The EU has focused on whether manufacturers misuse patents and lawsuit settlements to keep cheaper generic medicines off the market.
The EU also raided Lundbeck’s offices in 2005 in Denmark, Italy and Hungary, searching for evidence that the drugmaker abused its dominant market position in the antidepressant market.
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