GlaxoSmithKline may have harmed competition with agreements to delay the launch of generic versions of an antidepressant in exchange for payments, according to a senior adviser to Europe’s top court.
The expert opinion, ahead of a European Court of Justice ruling this year, relates to the UK drugmaker agreeing to pay rivals more than £50 million (US$65.5 million) to postpone the launch of cheaper copycat alternatives to its antidepressant Seroxat, after its patent expired in 1999.
Advocate-general Juliane Kokott on Wednesday, January 22, said the so-called pay-for-delay deals between the drugmakers “may constitute a restriction of competition” and “may be an abuse of a dominant position.”
She added that judges should consider the long-term impact for consumers when reaching a ruling. “Possible benefits afforded to consumers by the agreements concerned must, also in that context, be taken into account.”
Ms Kokott’s opinion is not legally binding, but carries weight and is likely to influence the court ruling, which is expected in the next few months. It also reinforces an earlier penalty imposed by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which concluded in 2016 that the deals struck by GSK were anti-competitive and fined the drugmaker £37.6 million (US$49.3 million).