Maintaining its vigilance towards the pharmaceutical industry, the Commission has opened an “own initiative” investigation into contractual arrangements between Johnson & Johnson and Novartis. The competition authority will assess whether agreements between the US and Swiss-based companies had the object or effect of delaying the entry of generic pain killers in the Netherlands following expiry of the patent for Fentanyl, a strong pain killer.

Competition Commissioner Almunia commented that “[P]harmaceutical companies are already rewarded for their innovation efforts by the patents they are granted. Paying a competitor to stay out of the market is a restriction of competition that the Commission will not tolerate.”

However, the opening of the proceeding does not prejudge the existence of an infringement which is still a long way from being proved.