French pharma giant Les Laboratoires Servier SA has been accused of providing “misleading” and “incorrect” information during the EC’s antitrust investigation. If Servier did indeed intentionally or negligently provide such information, the company could face a fine worth 1% of its total turnover for the preceding business year.
The EC’s competition inquiry into the pharmaceutical sector was concluded in July 2009. During this time, several questionnaires were sent out to industry stakeholders and pharma companies, including Servier. After further investigating the company’s reply, the EC “takes the preliminary view that this reply included information which appears to be misleading and incorrect”, according to a press statement.
The EC has sent a Statement of Objections to the company, although it also added that this will “not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation”.
As well as this new development, Servier is already under EC scrutiny for suspected breaches of restrictive business practices and abuse of a dominant market position. In particular, the company is accused of forming agreements with generic companies that may have delayed the market entry of cheaper versions of its heart disease drug, perindopril.
Earlier this month, the EC explained that the number of “potentially problematic” patent settlements in the pharma sector fell to just 10% during July 2008 to December 2009, compared with more than 20% in the period covered in the competition inquiry (January 2000–June 2008).
"Patent settlements are an effective means to end patent-related disputes and litigation. Nobody disputes this. However, some of them may be anticompetitive,” Joaquín Almunia, the Commission Vice President in charge of Competition Policy, said in a press statement. “Our report appears to show the sector's increased awareness of the potential competition concerns, but the Commission will remain attentive to ensure that the sale of safe, affordable medicines is not delayed by unfair practices.”