EU antitrust authorities launch probe of Teva over Copaxone drug

Investigation looking into abuse of Israeli drugmaker’s dominant market position; it was sued in the US for price-fixing of same medicine

A general view of the Israeli drug company TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries in Jerusalem on August 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )
A general view of the Israeli drug company TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries in Jerusalem on August 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )

European Union regulators on Thursday announced they have opened a formal investigation into Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals for possible antitrust violations.

The European Commission investigation will look into whether the drug company took illegal steps to thwart rivals on its multiple sclerosis medicine Copaxone and abused its dominant market position in breach of EU antitrust rules.

In 2019 and 2020, the European Commission raided the drugmaker, and in November the EU competition enforcer announced a preliminary investigation.

“Today, we have decided to launch an in-depth investigation into whether Teva may have abusively blocked or delayed the market entry of competitors to its blockbuster drug Copaxone,” the European commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, said.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager addresses a press conference on an antitrust case against US search engine Google at the European Commission in Brussels, on June 27, 2017. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

The Commission also said it “has indications that Teva’s campaign, primarily directed at healthcare institutions and professionals, may have targeted competing products to create a false perception of health risks associated with their use.”

Also in November 2020, the EU fined Teva and its subsidiary Cephalon a combined 60.5 million euros for keeping a cheaper generic version of modafinil, a blockbuster sleep disorder drug, off the market.

In August 2020, the US sued Teva for artificially raising the price of Copaxone and other drugs.

During a 19-month period from 2013 to 2015, Teva was said to have significantly raised prices on around 112 generic drugs and colluded on at least 86 other drugs, the US said in the suit. Some of the increases were more than 1,000%.

Copaxone, the only non-interferon multiple sclerosis treatment, was developed by Teva Pharmaceuticals in the mid-1990s. (Weizmann Institute of Science/JTA)

Patients would have paid a total of $350 million more than they should have, the US Justice Department said at the time.

Teva settled similar litigation with US antitrust authorities in 2015.

Generic products are far cheaper than brand medicines and lead to huge savings to patients and health care providers while remaining just as effective.

But in so-called pay-for-delay deals, drug makers secretly compensate generic rivals to thwart the introduction of cheaper versions of blockbuster drugs for an agreed-upon time.

Drugmakers argue that the arrangement allows them sufficient time to recoup expensive research and marketing costs incurred in bringing their products to market.

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