Once again, European Commission antitrust regulators have raided the offices of several drugmakers seeking evidence that they struck anticompetitive deals or used their dominant market positions to squeeze rivals. So far, though, only AstraZeneca has confirmed that it received a visit.
"The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have acted individually or jointly, notably to delay generic entry for a particular medicine," the commission says in a statement. This could be a potential violation of EU antitrust rules.”
The focus of the raid on AstraZeneca was its Nexium heartburn med, which is a $5 billion global seller but faces generic competition across Europe. "Earlier this week, competition authorities commenced inspections at a small number of AZ sites in Europe in relation to alleged practices regarding (Nexium) esomeprazole in Europe. We are cooperating with the authorities," a spokesman writes us. It is not clear yet which other drugmakers were visited, though.
The EC conducted several raids last year as well over suspicions that various drugmakers violated antitrust rules by deliberately stalling cheaper generic versions of their own meds after patents had expired. This followed a report from the European Union competition commissioner saying that delays in bringing generic drugs to the market had cost consumers and healthcare providers billions (see here and here).