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Cheap generic drugs delay

Written by Jane Coyle on 11 July 2009

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The European Commission is to launch an investigation into why there is a delay in introducing cheap generic drugs into the market.

It stated that it has found a gap of more than seven months between patents expiring and the appearance of generic drugs on the market allegedly pushing up healthcare costs in the EU.

The team has produced a report on generic medicines, which states that drug firms are using "a variety of instruments to extend the commercial life of their products without generic entry for as long as possible". The Commission says the delays matter because generic drugs are generally 40% cheaper, two years after market entry, than the original patented drugs.

Drug firms defend their actions by pointing to the considerable investments in research and development necessary to test the reliability of new drugs.

The EU report also stressed "an urgent need" for an EU wide patent system and "unified specialised patent litigation" in Europe. Generic drug companies which sell cheaper versions of drugs once the patent has expired have long complained that it is difficult to get their drugs to market in Europe. The Commission can impose large fines on drug companies if they engage in anti-competitive practices.

The British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA) welcomed the EU findings, saying the delays "increase NHS costs without any benefit to patients and limit access to medicines".

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