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EU Probes Danish Drug Maker for Generic Drug Delay

From Associated Press (January 7, 2010)

BRUSSELS--European Union regulators said Thursday that they suspect Danish drug maker Lundbeck may have delayed the launch of a generic version of its antidepressant drug in Europe.

The European Commission said it had opened a formal antitrust investigation to check whether H. Lundbeck A/S made deals with other pharmaceutical companies to delay them selling citralopram after Lundbeck's exclusive right to the drug it developed ran out in 2003.

Citralopram is one of the most widely used drugs to treat depression and anxiety and is sold under the name Celexa in the U.S. and Canada and Cipramil in most of Europe. It acts by altering serotonin levels which can raise a person's mood.

Regulators said they would investigate the allegations "as a matter of priority." There is no deadline for wrapping up the case.

The EU's competition commissioner Neelie Kroes warned in July that major drug makers face a wave of antitrust investigations. The EU concluded a broad inquiry into the pharmaceutical sector by saying that drugs companies are deliberately stalling cheaper generic versions of their own medicines once exclusive patents expire.

The EU says generic drugs are on average 40 percent cheaper than their branded rivals two years after they launch. It warned that it knew of at least 200 settlement agreements _ some including payments to delay drug launches _ between generic and brand-name drug makers that could restrict the rollout of generic version

Posted: January 2010