BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Danish drugmaker Lundbeck’s (LUN.CO) fight against a 2013 EU antitrust fine imposed for deals with rivals to delay sales of generic copies of its anti-depressant citalopram hit a hurdle after a top court adviser said its appeal should be rejected.
The European Commission fined Lundbeck and five generic drugmakers a combined 146 million euros for so-called “pay-for-delay” deals, saying they breached European Union rules.
Drugmakers have battled to continue using pay-for-delay deals against U.S. and European antitrust regulators who say such agreements hurt competition and hold back innovation.
Lundbeck challenged the EU ruling to fine it 93.7 million euros ($105 million) at the General Court but lost in 2016, prompting it to appeal to Europe’s highest court, the EU Court of Justice.
“The Court of Justice should uphold the fine of almost 94 million euros imposed on the Lundbeck pharmaceutical group in the context of agreements intended to delay the marketing of generic versions of its antidepressant medicinal product citalopram,” the Court of Justice advocate general Juliane Kokott wrote in an opinion on Thursday.
“Lundbeck adduced no evidence capable of demonstrating that its value transfers to the manufacturers of generic medicinal products were made in exchange for any consideration from the latter aside from their undertaking not to enter the market,” she said.
A spokesman for Lundbeck, which paid the fine in 2013, said: “Our view on this case is still the same. We never understood the basis of this fine.”
The Court of Justice, which has in the past followed four out of five such non-binding recommendations, will rule in the coming months.
Brand name drugmakers have in recent years struck fewer pay-for-delay deals with generic counterparts, following courts defeats.
The case is C-591/16 P Lundbeck v Commission.
Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Edmund Blair