Merck fined $38M in Spain for hindering generic competition for NuvaRing

Merck & Co. has been hit with a fine in Spain for alleged anti-competitive practices. The Spanish antitrust watchdog National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC) has docked the New Jersey pharma giant 39 million euros ($38.45 million) for hindering a generic version of its NuvaRing contraceptive device.  

The agency said that Merck used deceptive practices in preventing Insud Pharma of Spain from marketing its device. The U.S. company also obtained a court order that barred Insud from manufacturing its generic in Spain, the CNMC said, which effectively prevented Insud from selling the device anywhere in the world.  

“MSD deployed a strategy of deception with the court, hiding relevant factual and technical information,” the CNMC ruled. Merck is known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada

In an emailed statement, Merck said it disagrees with the ruling and is considering options including an appeal. "Our actions were in full compliance with Spanish law, and we remain confident that the law and facts support our position," a spokesperson said.

The case dates to 2018 when the CNMC conducted (PDF) an inspection of a Merck lab. Then in November of 2019, the CNMC said it had initiated disciplinary proceedings (PDF) against Merck, “for using various mechanisms involving industrial property law in order to delay and hinder the entry into the market of third-party competitors in Spain.”

NuvaRing was first approved in 2001.

In recent years, Europe has become more vigilant about anti-competitive practices. In 2020, Novartis and Roche were fined a combined $526 million in France for their marketing of macular degeneration drug Lucentis.