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The EU has stressed that a series of raids on major pharmaceutical firms does not indicate they have done anything wrong.
Inspectors swooped on Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, AstraZeneca, Merck, Johnson & Johnson’s Belgian unit, Wyeth, and Sandoz International GmbH, the generic division of Swiss company Novartis.
The European Commission is investigating why the number of new drugs hitting the market has fallen over the past few years.
Only 28 new treatments were launched from 2000 to 2004, a reduction on the 40 that were released between 1995 and 1999.
A spokesman said the EU wants to know “the reasons for this and in particular whether any agreements restricting competition or unilateral abuses of dominant position are connected to it”.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “We have launched this inquiry because pharmaceuticals markets are not working as well as they might.”
She also said the move is part of a probe into the whole industry, adding: “The inspections are therefore not targeting companies suspected of wrongdoing.
“They are just the starting point of a broad inquiry – a starting point that will ensure that the Commission has immediate access to the information it needs to guide its next steps.”
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