The European Commission has confirmed that its investigators carried out new surprise raids yesterday (December 9) on the offices of a number of drugmakers, as part of its investigations into alleged antitrust activities in the sector.

The Competition Commission did not name the companies involved, simply stating that it “has reason to believe that the provisions of the (European Union) treaty prohibiting restrictive business practices and/or the abuse of a dominant position may have been infringed."

However, Danish drugmaker Lundbeck has confirmed that its Italian office in Milan did receive a visit from the EU investigators yesterday, as a follow-up to a previous raid conducted in 2005, but adds that no new issues were involved. “The purpose was to identify whether Lundbeck has misused a dominant position or has been involved in anticompetitive activities in the Italian market for antidepressant drugs,” said the firm in a statement.

Lundbeck also said that it had been “open and collaborating with the EU Commission during the whole process and has also this time provided the EU Commission representatives full support and access to all documents.” No legal actions have been initiated against the firm as a result of the investigations, it added.

Teva of Israel, the world’s biggest generics maker, has also confirmed that its London office received a surprise visit from EU officials yesterday, and said this was a follow-up to a raid on its Paris office in October.

No other companies have yet been identified as being targeted in this, the fourth round of surprise raids which began in January 2008, although AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck & Co and Sanofi-aventis all said yesterday they were unaware of having received any visits this time.

The first round of unannounced visits from antitrust officials involved a large number of companies including GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer, Wyeth and Teva. The second, in November 2008, were made on the offices of Teva, Servier and Krka, and then in October this year the French offices of Sanofi-aventis, Novartis and Teva were visited.

In July, the Commission said that it had formally launched an investigation into alleged antitrust activities involving Servier and a number of generics makers.