EC warns Novartis and Johnson & Johnson


Over Dutch subsidiaries agreement on fentanyl sales

The European Commission has formally warned Novartis and Johnson & Johnson that they could be hit by massive anti-trust fines over an agreement struck by their Dutch subsidiaries on sales of painkiller fentanyl.

Brussels has said the agreement might have delayed the market entry of a cheaper generic medicine in the Netherlands, breaking European Union (EU) antitrust rules. It has sent a formal Statement of Objections to the companies, asking them to explain its concerns. If they fail, the Commission might impose anti-trust penalties of many millions of Euro.

EU competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said the European Commission alleges the creation by J&J’s Janssen-Cilag and generic competitor Sandoz of a ‘co-promotion agreement to avoid competing…depriving users of fentanyl in the Netherlands from access to a cheaper painkiller’.

‘The Commission is determined to fight undue delays in the market entry of generic medicines,’ he added, also stating that pharmaceutical companies should ‘not free ride our welfare state and health insurance systems, especially [when there are] constraints on public spending’.

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The move follows two similar announcements by the Commission last year, where it made anti-trust claims regarding Lundbeck and several generic competitors over citalopram, an antidepressant; and Les Laboratoires Servier and generic manufacturers about perindopril, a cardiovascular medicine.