On 25 January 2017, the European Commission approved the acquisition of Alere by Abbott Laboratories, subject to certain conditions.

Alere and Abbott are both US-based companies active in in vitro diagnostics (IVD) systems. Their activities are largely complementary; Abbott has a broader portfolio of laboratory systems and Alere focuses on point of care. However, overlaps exist, in particular for point of care analysers used in the testing of blood gases and cardiac markers.

Moreover, the European Commission noticed that the proposed merger might affect the ability of Danaher, another supplier of IVD systems, to compete for laboratory systems running B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) tests.

In order to address the competition concerns identified by the Commission, Abbott offered the following commitments:

  • To fully divest Alere’s global Epoc business, including its manufacturing site in Ottawa, Canada;
  • To fully divest Alere’s global Triage business, including its manufacturing site in San Diego, USA; and
  • To fully divest the Alere BNP reagents business that markets a BNP test with Danaher.

Following its assessment of Abbott’s proposed commitments, the European Commission concluded that the acquisition could be implemented in light of the merger control regulation.

This decision shows the complexity of merger control rules in the pharmaceutical sector, due to the very narrow markets and few active players in each individual market.

Competitors are certain to be closely following the sale of Alere’s activities.