The Commission has confirmed that on 12 January 2010, on the basis of EU antitrust rules, it addressed requests for information to certain pharmaceutical companies asking them to submit copies of their patent settlement agreements. The requests cover patent settlement agreements concluded between originator and generic pharmaceutical companies in the period from 1 July 2008 to 31 December 2009 and relating to the EU/EEA. The Commission is in particular looking at patent settlements where an originator company pays off a generic competitor in return for delayed market entry of a generic drug. This monitoring exercise has been launched in the light of the findings of the competition inquiry into the pharmaceutical sector Inquiry (published in July 2009). The sector inquiry highlighted the risk that certain types of patent settlements may have negative effects on European consumers by depriving them of a broader choice of medicines at lower prices and indicated that the Commission could monitor such patent settlements.
Following receipt of the responses, the Commission will analyse the agreements and publish a short report providing a statistical overview. In case a specific settlement raises additional questions, a more targeted request for information could follow. Depending on the outcome of the exercise, this round of information requests may be repeated annually for as long as the Commission considers that there is a potential problem.
IP/10/12 – 12 January 2010