Friday, November 22, 2013

EU regulator likely to fine Johnson & Johnson, Novartis next month - sources

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are set to fine Johnson & Johnson and Novartis next month for blocking the sale of a generic painkiller in the Dutch market, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The sanction, the second against so-called pay-for-delay deals after fines against Lundbeck and eight others in June, underlines the European Commission's determination to crack down on a practice common in the pharmaceutical industry.
In pay-for-delay agreements, brand-name firms pay generic companies not to market rival versions of their medicine which usually cost a fraction of the original drug, though the issue is complicated by patent ownership.
Antitrust regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have in recent years criticised the practice for inflating consumers' bills and pushing up public healthcare costs.
"The European Commission is likely to issue a decision next month," one of the people said.
In its charge sheet sent to the companies in January, the European Union competition watchdog said the pay-for-delay deal against the generic versions of fentanyl hurt Dutch consumers and healthcare providers.
Commission spokesman for competition policy, Antoine Colombani, declined to comment. Johnson & Johnson and Novartis were not immediately available for comment.
Novartis shares trimmed earlier gains after the Reuters report. They were 1.0 percent up at 73.10 at 1415 GMT, versus an earlier gain of 1.5 percent.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; additional reporting by Caroline Copley in Zurich and Caroline Humer in New York City, editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Jane Merriman)

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