| BRUSSELS, Sept 6
BRUSSELS, Sept 6 Europe's top court will rule on
Thursday whether Danish drugmaker Lundbeck breached EU
antitrust rules by paying smaller rivals to delay generic copies
of its blockbuster citalopram anti-depressant from entering the
The cases, among several before the Luxembourg-based Court
of Justice of the European Union, are being closely watched by
the pharmaceuticals industry fighting to preserve a longstanding
Antitrust authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have
been investigating pay-for-delay deals for several years,
prompted in part by the high costs borne by cash-strapped
national health systems.
In June 2013 the European Commission said such agreements
were anti-competitive as it imposed a 146 million euro ($164
million) fine on Lundbeck and eight other drugmakers including
Ranbaxy Laboratories, which was later acquired by India's
largest drugmaker Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
Lundbeck, Merck KGaA, Generics (UK), Arrow Group, Sun
Pharmaceutical Industries, Xellia Pharmaceuticals and Alpharma
later took their cases to court. Judges will rule on all six
cases on Thursday. The industry says pay-for-delay deals prevent
costly and lengthy litigation.
"The Commission sees some of these deals as undercover
market sharing arrangements whereby the brand and the generic
manufacturer may share monopoly rents instead of competing,"
said lawyer Alfonso Lamadrid at Garrigues.
The Commission's decisions followed an inquiry into the
sector in 2008-2009. Israeli drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical
Industries and France's Servier have also challenged
the decisions and fines in separate but similar cases.
In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such deals
could potentially be a violation of antitrust law, although it
refused a Federal Trade Commission request to declare them to be
presumed to be illegal. Since then branded drug companies have
struck far fewer such deals with generic drugmakers.
In February, Britain's competition watchdog
fined GlaxoSmithKline 37.6 million pounds ($50.50
million) for market abuse in striking deals to delay the launch
of generic versions of its former blockbuster antidepressant
Seroxat. GSK said it disagreed with the decision.
The cases are T-472/13 Lundbeck v Commission, T-471/13,
T-471/13, T-469/13, T-467/13 and T-467/13.
($1 = 0.8901 euros)
($1 = 0.7445 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Ben Hirschler in London; editing by