European Commission has launched an inquiry on competition in the pharmaceutical sector

Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition, said that: “Individuals and governments want a strong pharmaceuticals sector that delivers better products and value for money. But if innovative products are not being produced, and cheaper generic alternatives to existing products are in some cases being delayed, then we need to find out why and, if necessary, take action.”

The EGA believes a weakness exists in the European patent system that allows the granting of weak patents which subsequently cause so-called evergreening of pharmaceutical blockbusters and in some cases creates unclear patent situations for certain molecules. In addition, the launch of generic medicines is sometimes blocked due to unjustified litigation based on weak evidence, which results in delays in patient access to affordable generic medicines.

The EGA is of the opinion that Europe needs strong patent legislation with strong criteria on what is an “inventive step”, guaranteeing that patents are granted in order to reward genuine innovation. The EGA notes that in the European Union, intellectual property rights have increased over the past 15 years, but that this has not resulted in an increased rate of innovation. This is because the current intellectual property and pricing systems are not stimulating innovation, nor encouraging competition from generic medicines.

EU regulators are also to look into whether drug companies illegally thwart the entry of rivals into their markets with artificial barriers such as misuse of patent rights or litigation.