EU regulators raid drugmakers' offices

The European Commission says it has begun "surprise inspections" at the premises of European pharmaceutical giants over suspected violations of competition rules. Drugmakers are suspected of seeking to delay the launch of cheaper generic products.


AFP - Investigators carried out raids on European pharmaceutical giants on Tuesday over suspected competition violations, the European Commission said in a statement.

Brussels "can confirm that on October 6 commission officials started surprise inspections at the premises of certain companies active in the pharmaceutical industry," the statement said.

France's Sanofi-Aventis was one of those raided, a company spokesman told AFP. "Sanofi is going to cooperate with the commission," he added.

Belgium's UCB and Solvay, Britain's AstraZeneca, France's Servier and Germany's Bayer and Merck each said they were not targeted.

Officials accompanied by national inspectors were seeking evidence of "restrictive business practices and/or the abuse of a dominant market position," the commission, which polices competition in the EU, added.

Regulators stepped up a sector-wide probe launched in January 2008 with an investigation announced in July into the relationship between companies that patent their products as brand-named medicine, as well as their ties with generic drug producers.

Then, the commission said that "unilateral behaviour" by French pharmaceutical maker Les Laboratoires Servier might have hindered the entry into EU markets of generic perindopril, a cardio-vascular medicine first developed by the company.

The commission did not detail the companies or countries involved, and stressed that such steps follow no fixed deadlines.

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