On August 3, 2007, the Italian antitrust authority imposed fines totaling approximately €4 million on Bristol Myers Squibb S.r.l., B. Braun Milano S.p.A., Hollister S.p.A., and Coloplast S.p.A. for alleged concerted anticompetitive practices.
The arrangement among the above mentioned entities concerned the supply of ostomy devices to the Ferrara USL, the local health authority and coordinator of the buying consortium for the health authorities in the provinces of Bologna and Ferrara. Ostomy devices are used by patients who have undergone surgical operations on the urinary and digestive tracts. The four companies, which together account for 95% of the Italian market for the supply of ostomy devices, did not respond – in spite of being pre-qualified – to the call for private bids launched by the Ferrara USL. The Italian authority concluded that the companies had coordinated their behavior in refusing to respond to the bid and this alleged coordination had the effect of reducing the already limited space for competition in the ostomy device market.
The Italian authority's investigation began in July 2006 pursuant to a complaint by the Ferrara USL. The Ferrara USL had tried to introduce a new purchasing system for ostomy devices, moving from a private negotiation system under which the relevant companies could sell the whole range of products to a single-supplier tendering system under which the winner would supply a single product type. The new purchasing system would not have an effect on the supply of products with special requirements or the ongoing supply of certain other devices used by patients who had already undergone surgical operations on the urinary and digestive tracts.
The four companies indicated that their non-participation in the private bid process was to protect the interests of the patients. The Italian authority emphasized that the interests of the patients would not be compromised by the single-supplier system, which would oblige companies to compete on price and thereby lead to cost savings for the health authorities.