EU launches drug firms collusion investigation

Drug firms
Image caption The EU has launched a crackdown on collusion

The European Commission has launched an investigation into whether Swiss drugs firm Novartis and its US rival Johnson & Johnson colluded to keep a generic painkiller out of the Dutch market.

It is investigating whether the companies' actions are "hindering the entry onto the market of generic versions of Fentanyl".

The drug is used as a painkiller for chronic pain.

Novartis confirmed the investigation, but refused to comment further.

Generic drugs are far cheaper without compromising on effectiveness.

"I regard this sector as a priority in terms of enforcement of competition rules given its importance for consumers and for governments' finances," said Joaquin Almunia, EU Competition Commissioner.

"Pharmaceutical 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," he said.

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