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AstraZeneca loses generic drug case versus EU

BRUSSELS, July 1 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators were justified in fining Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca AZN.L five years ago for blocking cheaper generic drugs coming to the market, an EU court said on Thursday.

The European Commission, the European Union’s competition watchdog, saod in a 2005 decision that AstraZeneca had breached EU rules by blocking or delaying market access for generic versions of its ulcer pill Losec from 1993 to 2000.

The company provided misleading information to patent offices in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Britain, the EU executive had said.

AstraZeneca appealed against the decision and took its case to the General Court, the EU’s second-highest.

“The General Court essentially upholds the decision of the Commission which found that the AstraZeneca Group abused its dominant position by preventing the marketing of generic products replicating Losec,” the Court said in a statement.

The Court, however, reduced the fine to 52.5 million euros ($64.24 million) from 60 million euros, saying the Commission had not proved that the deregistration of the marketing authorisations of the drug in certain member states affected parallel imports. In a critical report into the sector last year, the Commission said delays in bringing less expensive generic drugs to the market had pushed up consumers’ bills by 20 percent between 2000 and 2007. ($1=.8172 Euro)

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee