By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS Nov 22 EU antitrust regulators are set
to fine Johnson & Johnson and Novartis next
month as part of a crackdown against deals delaying the sale of
cheaper generic medicines, 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
challenge 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, and Novartis declined to comment. Johnson & Johnson
was not immediately available for comment.
Novartis shares fell by 1.7 percent after the Reuters report
and closed 0.2 percent down at 72.20 versus a flat European
The Commission has two other pay-for-delay cases in the
pipeline involving Israel's Teva and its subsidiary
Cephalon, and French drugmaker Servier.