European watchdogs raid drugmakers again

European Commission antitrust watchdogs warned last week that their drug-industry probing was far from over. Today, they proved themselves right. Regulators raided a variety of as-yet-unspecified pharma companies today, leaving the industry wondering what's going on.

The official explanation wasn't very enlightening. "The Commission has reason to believe that the provisions of the EC Treaty prohibiting restrictive business practices and/or the abuse of a dominant market position ... may have been infringed," regulators said in a statement. Nor would the EC say which drugmakers got surprise visitors. A few companies told reporters that they had not been visited, including Novo Nordisk (Sweden) and Lundbeck (Germany).

As you know, European antitrust watchdogs have been after pharma for some time, focusing at least in part on so-called "pay-for-delay" deals that drugmakers have been known to make with generics firms. Under such arrangements, generics makers keep their rival versions off the market for an agreed-upon period of time in exchange for up-front payments, exclusive manufacturing deals, future licenses, or a combination of all three. No word, obviously, on whether this latest round of inspections has anything to do with pay-for-delay. We'll keep our ear to the ground.

- read the release from the EC
- see the Reuters story