The European Commission has confirmed that its investigators raided the offices of a number of pharmaceutical companies in several member states on Monday and Tuesday, on the grounds that it “has reason to believe that the provisions of the European Commission Treaty prohibiting restrictive business practices and/or the abuse of a dominant market position may have been infringed.”

The companies investigated have not been named, but Commission officials said they are not the same group of firms which were investigated in series of surprise dawn raids in January, on the order of Commissioner for Competition Policy Neelie Kroes, to discover if brand-name drugmakers were misusing patents and colluding with generic drugmakers in order to keep cheaper generics off the market.

The firms which were raided in January, and many others which were not, were required to furnish the Commission with detailed information about their activities and it is this exercise which is thought to have triggered the latest investigations. In a statement yesterday, the Commission noted that: “the knowledge acquired during the sector inquiry has allowed the Commission to draw conclusions on where Commission action based on competition law could be appropriate and effective.”

Observers believe that European Union (EU) regulators could be planning to launch antitrust investigations against a number of individual companies shortly, although officials have emphasised that the raids were a preliminary stage of an investigation and did not mean that the companies targeted were guilty of anti-competitive behaviour.

“There is no strict time limit for completing investigations of anti-competitive practices,” they added.
Commissioner Kroes is due later this week to present interim findings from January’s antitrust raids, with a final report to be published in the spring. Companies found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules can be fined as much as 10% of their annual sales.