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AstraZeneca, Nycomed Antitrust Probe Ended by EU Regulators

European Union regulators dropped a probe into AstraZeneca Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest drugmaker, and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s Nycomed unit over possible collusion to keep cheaper copies of medicines off the market.

“Our investigation did not enable us to conclude that AstraZeneca and Nycomed had infringed EU antitrust rules,” Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission, said in an e-mail. “We are taking the issue of possible hindering or delaying of generic entry very seriously and we have several other ongoing antitrust investigations in the pharmaceutical sector.”

The EU’s antitrust agency raided AstraZeneca and Nycomed in November 2010. AstraZeneca said at the time that the inspections at its premises concerned the ulcer drug Nexium. London-based AstraZeneca lost European patent protection on Nexium sales in March 2010.

Antitrust regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are focusing on how settlements between companies that make branded medicines and generic-drug producers might harm consumers. The EU opened a probe into Johnson & Johnson and Novartis AG in October and is also investigating Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and its Cephalon Inc. unit over possible efforts to hinder generic drugs.

AstraZeneca is “pleased that the commission has ceased its investigation,” Sarah Lindgreen, a London-based spokeswoman for the company, said in an e-mail. “We take compliance with all laws seriously and have a fundamental commitment to doing business in an ethical and proper manner.”

Nycomed has been “fully compliant with all applicable laws and regulations” and it was “pleased to see this confirmed by the commission,” said Tobias Cottmann, a spokesman for Nycomed in Zurich, Switzerland.

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