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Drug firms warned over generic exclusion

Drug firms warned over generic exclusion
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A bitter pill for consumers and governments…

Europe’s competition authority says major pharmaceutical companies are keeping cheaper generic medicines out of the market. This pushes up bills for individuals and taxpayer-funded health systems covering prescription drug costs.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said a year-long probe showed innovation also took a hit from unfair play: “Several of the most damaging practices which delayed or blocked market entry of competitors include patent clustering, where a company forms a dense network of patents around a medicine. The worst example we found of this method was 1,300 separate patent filings, across the EU, for a single medicine!”

Based on a sample of medicines in 17 EU states, the Commission said delays in getting generics on the market had cost healthcare providers around three billion euros since the year 2000.

It found that generic plaintiffs had won more than half of some 700 patent litigation cases, but only after they had dragged out for an average of nearly three years.

While major branded drug companies insisted competition is thriving, Kroes warned that Brussels would haul antitrust violators to court.