EU watchdogs flag fewer 'problem' patent deals

Is the European Commission backing away from drug companies' patent settlements? Or are companies changing their behavior because of the ongoing antitrust probes? Antitrust regulators have abandoned one pharma probe and are adding only a few new targets to their list of "problematic" patent settlements.

The EC watchdogs dropped an investigation into Boehringer Ingelheim's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drugs after the drugmaker agreed to make some changes to satisfy rival Almirall, Bloomberg reports. The Spanish firm had complained of "blocking positions" that it said Boehringer used to prevent sales of Almirall's COPD treatments. 

Meanwhile, in the antitrust regulators' most recent update of their pharma investigations, they reported fewer new "problematic" pay-for-delay deals between branded drugmakers and generics firms. In fact, they flagged only three patent-settlement deals that they considered ploys to delay the sale of knock-off meds.

The regulators are still pursuing probes into a slate of patent settlements, however. "The Commission will remain vigilant that companies' behaviour respects antitrust law and does not delay entry of cheaper pharmaceuticals," said Joaquin Almunia, EU antitrust commissioner.

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