EU Regulators Seek Information From Drug Companies Over Patent Settlements

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Aoife White and Stephanie Bodoni
January 17, 2011

Bayer AG was among drug firms told by European Union antitrust officials to submit details of patent-settlement deals that may be used to delay the sale of generic versions of medicines.

“A selected number” of unidentified companies must hand in a copy of all agreements from last year “relevant” to the 27-nation EU region, the European Commission said in a statement today. Bayer, Europe’s largest drug and chemical maker, received a request, said Rolf Ackermann, a spokesman for the Leverkusen, Germany-based company. He declined to comment further.

Patent settlements “are an area of particular concern because they may delay the market entry of generic medicines,” Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, said in the statement.

Antitrust regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are focusing on how settlements between companies that make branded medicines and generic producers might harm consumers. AstraZeneca Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest drugmaker, and Nycomed A/S said last month they were raided by EU officials as part of a probe into possible anti-competitive practices.

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