H. Lundbeck is facing questions about stalling competition at home

Denmark-based H. Lundbeck, which was fined in the EU last year for its effort to keep generics of antidepressant blockbuster Celexa off the market, is now facing questions in its home country. The health minister there is telling local jurisdictions they should bring legal action if they think they can prove they have been harmed by any drugmaker's effort to prevent competition.

According to Reuters, officials in the 5 regions that oversee hospitals and other healthcare providers have asked the attorney general for an opinion on whether they can seek damages against Lundbeck.

"I think the public health system should raise a compensation claim if they can lift the burden of proof," Danish health minister Astrid Krag told the Denmark newspaper Jyllands-Posten in an interview, Reuters reports.

The whole matter stems from a patent fight between Lundbeck and generic drugmaker Actavis ($ACT) over antidepressant Cipralex, Reuters reports. Actavis has suggested that Lundbeck has been blocking generic competition there, while Lundbeck accuses Actavis of infringing its patent on the drug. A Danish court recently found in favor of Actavis, which earlier had its generic blocked by a lower court ruling, but as Lundbeck pointed out, final disposition of the case is probably still some ways out.

"As for our case against Actavis it is--sadly--not unlike other cases of generic companies violating our patents and we have tried to enforce our patent," a Lundbeck spokesperson told Pharmafocus. "The court case about the infringement is ongoing. A verdict is probably a year or two away."

Last summer, the European Commission (EC) fined Lundbeck and a cadre of companies €146 million ($195.5 million) for striking so-called pay-for-delay deals that delayed the launch of generics. The EC action was the first of its kind for this antitrust regulator. In Lundbeck's case, it was fined €93.8 million ($125.6 million) for working out agreements more than a decade ago with competitors like Ranbaxy Laboratories and Merck KGaA to hold off launching their copies of its blockbuster antidepressant, Celexa. The EC said the deals hurt patients and government payers by keeping prices artificially high. When generics of citalopram finally hit the market, the cost of the drug dropped by 90%, it said. Lundbeck disputed the claim and along with Ranbaxy said they would appeal.

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