BRUSSELS, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- European regulators raided some of the biggest drug companies Wednesday, looking into whether they conspired to keep prices high after patents expired.
Pfizer, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis were among pharmaceutical houses confirming they were visited as part of the European Commission investigation into delays in the introduction of low-cost generic drugs, the Financial Times reported. Teva, the world's main generics company, also was targeted.
The inquiry focuses on whether the industry took unfair advantage of patent rights to delay the introduction of generic alternatives. Investigators said the probe will assess whether companies have made bogus attempts to extend the life of intellectual property rights or cut deals with one generic rival at the expense of others, the newspaper said.
The EU, based in Brussels, has expressed concern about the rising cost of medicines and declining innovation.
"If we have the feeling that something is rotten in the state, then let's take the opportunity to find out," said Neelie Kroes, competition commissioner. "If innovative products are not being produced, and cheaper generic alternatives to existing products are in some cases being delayed, then we need to find out why and, if necessary, take action."