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21 June 2022Big Pharma

EU regulator investigates reported antitrust conduct by Vifor Pharma

The European Commission has opened an antitrust investigation to assess whether Switzerland-headquartered Vifor Pharma has engaged in anticompetitive conduct.

The investigation,  announced yesterday, June 20, will consider whether Vifor Pharma has restricted competition by “illegally disparaging" Pharmacosmos, its closest competitor in Europe on the market for intravenous iron treatment.

Pharmacosmos, a smaller Danish family-owned specialist pharmaceutical company, filed a complaint with the Commission, sparking the investigation.

According to the Commission, there have been indications for many years that Vifor Pharma may have been disparaging Monofer by “spreading misleading information regarding its safety”.

The EU regulator is concerned that Vifor Pharma “pursued a misleading communication campaign, primarily targeting healthcare professionals, which may have unduly hindered Monofer's uptake in the European Economic Area (EEA)".

Vifor Pharma‘s Ferinject and Pharmacosmos' Monofer are both high-dose intravenous iron medicines indicated for the treatment of iron deficiency when, for instance, oral preparations are ineffective or cannot be used.

Approximately 1.8 million patients suffering from iron deficiency are currently being treated with high-dose intravenous iron products annually in the EEA.

Now, the Commission will engage in an in-depth investigation as a matter of priority.

If the Commission's concerns are proven, Vifor Pharma's behaviour may amount to an abuse of dominant position and infringe Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 54 of the EEA Agreement.

Executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy at the Commission, said: “Competition in the pharmaceutical sector is important. It provides access to affordable and innovative medicines to patients.

“The dissemination of misleading information regarding the safety of Pharmacosmos' iron deficiency treatment, Monofer, may have delayed its uptake. This would ultimately harm patients by stifling competition from an innovative medicine. Today we launched an in-depth investigation to assess whether this is the case.”

There is no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end.

The Vifor Pharma investigation is the Commission’s second formal investigation into potential abuses which relate to exclusionary disparagement of competing products in the pharmaceutical industry.

In March last year, the Commission  opened an investigation into Teva’s possible anticompetitive conduct in relation to a blockbuster multiple sclerosis medicine.

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