EC antitrust squad drops AZ-Nycomed probe

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AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Nycomed are in the clear, at least as far as European regulators are concerned. The European Commission's antitrust squad has dropped an investigation of the two companies after searching for evidence they colluded to keep a generic drug off the market.

The probe was part of a concerted effort to hold drugmakers and generics companies to competition rules, partly to save money on branded meds. The EC's antitrust agency has been swooping in on pharma offices, gathering documents, and otherwise digging for possible violations. As Bloomberg reports, regulators raided AstraZeneca and Nycomed offices in 2010; at the time, U.K.-based AstraZeneca said investigators were seeking information about its ulcer drug Nexium.

An EC spokesman said "the evidence was not there" to establish that AstraZeneca or Nycomed, now owned by Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical, had stepped on antitrust rules. But AstraZeneca and Nycomed are just two of the companies antitrust regulators are examining. "We still have ongoing investigations in the pharmaceutical sector, and we still take issues of possible hindering or delaying generics onto the market very seriously," Antoine Colombani said during a news briefing (as quoted by Reuters).

Other drugmakers in the EC's sights include the French pharma Servier, Denmark's Lundbeck, generics giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) and its new U.S.-based unit Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Novartis ($NVS), Reuters notes.

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