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BRUSSELS, Jan 31 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators charged pharmaceutical firms Johnson & Johnson and Novartis on Thursday over the delay of a generic competitor for painkiller fentanyl in the Dutch market.
The European Commission, which acts as antitrust regulator in the 27-nation European Union, said it had sent a "statement of objections" or charge sheet to the companies over an agreement between their Dutch subsidiaries.
"If our preliminary conclusions are confirmed, the Dutch subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson and Novartis entered into a so-called 'co-promotion' agreement to avoid competing against each other, depriving users of fentanyl in the Netherlands from access to a cheaper painkiller," the Commission said in a statement.
The charges arose from an investigation of the pharmaceuticals sector after a Commission report highlighted deals between major drugmakers aimed at hindering or blocking generic medicines in "pay-for-delay" deals.