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Brussels, 3 December 2010

Antitrust: Commission confirms unannounced inspections in pharmaceutical sector

The European Commission can confirm that on 30 November 2010 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of a limited number of companies active in the pharmaceutical sector in several Member States. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have acted individually or jointly, notably to delay generic entry for a particular medicine. If confirmed, this could be a potential violation of EU antitrust rules that prohibit restrictive business practices and/or the abuse of a dominant market position (Articles 101 and 102 of the EU Treaty).

The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.

Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step in suspected anticompetitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The Commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in the Commission’s proceedings against them.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

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