* Fewer potentially problematic patent settlements in EU
* Follows crackdown on deals that delay cheaper generics
* 7 pct of 2012 deals involved payment vs 22 pct in 2000-08
LONDON, Dec 9 A crackdown by regulators on deals
between drugmakers that unfairly delay the launch of cheap
generic medicines appears to be working, with data on Monday
showing firms in Europe are avoiding settlements involving
Generic drug firms regularly challenge the validity of
branded drug patents - especially when patents are nearing the
end of their life - and some companies owning the original
brands have been paying rivals not to market generic versions of
The practice has brought criticism from around the world
because it inflates consumers' bills and pushes up public
In recent years, the European Commission has taken a
particularly tough line and new figures suggest that its
strategy is paying off, with so-called "pay-for-delay" deals now
far less common.
The report found the vast majority of settlements now do not
include payments to the generic firm.
The Commission said the number of deals involving a transfer
of value from the originator to the generic company decreased to
just 7 percent of the total in 2012 from an average of 22
percent between 2000 and the first half of 2008.
Overall, 183 patent settlements were concluded between
originator and generic companies in 2012, up from 120 in 2011,
but few of these gave rise to antitrust concerns.
New legal provisions in Portugal, where the government has
been pushing for greater use of generics, also contributed to
the increase in overall settlements. Without this factor, there
was a smaller increase to 125 cases in 2012 from 120 in 2011.
The Commission said in a statement that the data showed its
2009 inquiry into the sector had not stopped firms from settling
patent disputes, and in most cases they were able to do so
without running into problems under EU antitrust rules.
The European Commission has taken sanctions against several
specific companies for settlements that breach antitrust rules.
In June, it fined Lundbeck and eight others - and two
people familiar with the matter said last month it was also set
to fine Johnson & Johnson and Novartis.
The Commission has another two other pay-for-delay cases in
the pipeline involving Teva and its subsidiary
Cephalon, and privately owned French drugmaker Servier.