A leading lawyer has warned that the European Commission is facing an uphill battle in its bid to curb protectionist practices by big drug companies in Europe.
Neelie Kroes, the competition commissioner, said there were clashes ahead after a report was published highlighting tactics used by the major pharmaceuticals to slow the introduction of cheaper, generic versions of their medicines.
However, competition legal specialist Edward Miller said it would be difficult to take legal action against manufacturers safeguarding their intellectual property rights.
He said: “It is natural that powerful companies will wish to use the law in order to delay the entry of competitors and will vigorously defend any challenges to their intellectual property rights.”
Delaying generic medicines added a total of £2.5 billion to medical bills in 17 EU countries in the period between 2000-2007, the preliminary report revealed.
The Commission said that was the amount that health services and patients could have saved if generic drugs had been allowed into the market earlier.
The report shows how the major drug companies utilise loopholes in patent law in order to file a number of patent claims and extend the normal patent expiry dates beyond which generic products can be introduced.
Copyright Press Association 2008