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Top EU Court Upholds AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) Fine Over Ulcer Drug



12/6/2012 7:26:53 AM

The European Union's highest court has upheld a 52.5 million euro ($69 million) antitrust fine levied against AstraZeneca for blocking the entry of cheaper rivals to its then bestseller ulcer drug Losec. "The abuses must be characterized as serious infringements, and consequently the amount of the fine cannot be reduced for those reasons," the Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ) said on Thursday. The General Court, Europe's second-highest, had backed the European Commission in 2010 against British drugmaker AstraZeneca, but cut the penalty to 52.5 million euros from an original 60 million. The Commission, which acts as EU antitrust and competition authority, originally penalized AstraZeneca for actions that regulators said had kept Losec prices artificially high. Officials at AstraZeneca were not available to comment. Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have generally frowned on actions by brand-name companies to delay either the production or sale of cheaper medicines to protect their own products. The ECJ decision was an endorsement of the European Commission's policy of getting tough on tactics used by drugmakers to block cheap generics - a growing issue for the industry as many medicines reach the end of their patent life.

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