The UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has accused GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of colluding with several companies to delay the entry of generic versions of its antidepressant Seroxat onto the UK market.
The OFT, which is the government department responsible for protecting consumers, said GSK infringed competition law by making “substantial payments” to Alpharma, Generics (UK) and Norton Healthcare to delay plans to supply their own versions of Seroxat (paroxetine) once its patent expired in 2003.
These payments were part of agreements made between the three generic companies and GSK to resolve patent infringement claims launched by the pharma firm after Alpharma, Generic (UK) and Norton Healthcare attempted to launch their generic copies of Seroxat.
In addition, the OFT also claimed that GSK’s conduct “amounted to an abuse of a dominant position” in the Seroxat market.
If GSK is found to have infringed competition law, the company could be fined up to 10 per cent of its global turnover, depending on how serious the OFT deems the infringement.
In a statement, a GSK spokesperson countered the claims and said: “GSK supports fair competition and we very strongly believe that we acted within the law, as the holder of valid patents for paroxetine, in entering the agreements under investigation.”
According to the spokesperson, these agreements even allowed for paroxetine products to enter the market before GSK’s patents had expired.
GSK also noted the arrangements with the three generic firms were terminated in 2004 and that the matter had already been investigated by the European Commission, which concluded in 2012 that no further action was necessary, and the company now intends to review the OFT’s position before taking action.
GSK and the three generic companies have until August to respond to the OFT’s claims, after which the OFT make a final decision.
“No assumption should be made at this stage that there has been an infringement of competition law,” said Ann Pope, senior director of services, infrastructure and public markets at the OTC.
“We will carefully consider the parties’ representations to the statement of objections before deciding whether competition law has in fact been infringed.”
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