World Bulletin / News Desk
EU antitrust regulators charged Danish drugmaker Lundbeck, German peer Merck KGaA and seven other firms with blocking the entry of cheaper generic medicines into the market, in a move that could lead to big fines for the companies.
The charges against Lundbeck and the eight other firms are the first by the EU watchdog against "pay-for-delay" deals -- where brand-name companies pay generic competitors to abstain from putting their rival drugs on the market -- since a high-profile inquiry into the sector in 2009.
The European Commission said on Wednesday the tactic breached EU antitrust rules. It also warned French drugmaker Servier and several generic rivals of further action in the coming days for a similar offence, related to another medicine.
Regulators had said then that such delays cost European consumers billions of euros. Reuters reported on Tuesday that the EU watchdog would act against Lundbeck and Servier.
Companies can be fined up to 10 percent of their turnover if found guilty of breaching EU rules. Lundbeck posted 16 billion Danish crowns ($2.60 billion) in revenues last year.
The Commission said Lundbeck's action together with four generic competitors related to the antidepressant citalopram.
"The companies entered into agreements that foresaw substantial value transfers from Lundbeck to its four generic competitors, who subsequently abstained from entering the market with generic citalopram," the Commission 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," it said.
The Commission has been stepping up scrutiny of settlements between drug companies in recent years over concerns some may prevent consumers from obtaining lower-priced medicines.
Lundbeck said it did not believe it had broken EU rules.
"Lundbeck vigorously opposes any allegation of wrongdoing and does not believe its practice has violated European competition law," the company said in a statement in Copenhagen.
The EU watchdog also sent the "statement of objections" or charge sheet to Generics UK, Arrow, Resolution Chemicals, Xellia Pharmaceuticals, Alpharma, A.L. Industrier and Ranbaxy .
On Servier, the Commission said it planned to act against the company and several generic competitors soon.
"Servier and several generic competitors entered into agreements which may have hindered the entry of generic perindopril into markets in the EU," the regulators said.
"In the context of this investigation, the Commission is also looking at the unilateral behaviour of Servier."
A fifth payment of $450 million was due on April 15, contingent on Iran having diluted half of its most sensitive stockpile of nuclear materials
The year-on-year inflation rate in the 18 countries sharing the euro was 0.5 percent in March against 0.7 percent in February, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said.
Pushed by higher food and shelter costs, the consumer price index rose in March.
Country of origin labels are currently voluntary in the European Union and many of the bloc's governments want to keep it that way
While reverse flows would help cushion the effects of a Russian export cut during mild-demand summer months, analysts say they would not be sufficient in winter.
The tanker, Aegean Dignity, is due to take its load to Italy, the NOC quoted an oil official as saying in a statement on its website
TAP aims at enhancing the security of natural gas supply as well as diversification of gas supplies for the European markets.
Charlie Shrem, 24, was arrested in January and stepped down as vice president of the Bitcoin Foundation, a well-known trade group, soon after.
The religious endowments minister has ordered mosques not to run air conditioners before May 15 and after that date to use air conditioning only during prayer time
Most foreign workers in the construction and oil industries come from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, while many domestic workers are from Indonesia and the Philippines
Lukoil has been decreasing its stake in Caspian Investment Resources Ltd, to share the costs at the projects, which require extensive financing.
Israel, which occupied the West Bank in a 1967 war, controls the airwaves of the territory, and Palestinian firms' lack of 3G is a constraint on its technology sector while Israel's soars
The hryvnia has lost about 38 percent of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the year due to the conflict with Russia.
The Austrian justice ministry said "numerous" persons were being investigated over money-laundering and other crimes, including former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his son Oleksii.
Ali Majedi, Iran's deputy oil minister for international affairs and trade, said Moscow and Tehran would struggle to agree such a deal.