June 27, 2022

European Commission opens second market abuse investigation in the pharmaceutical industry

On June 20, 2022, the European Commission announced that it had opened an antitrust investigation into potentially anticompetitive conduct by Vifor Pharma, a global specialty pharmaceuticals enterprise based in Switzerland.  According to the EC,  the investigation is focused on whether Vifor has hindered competition by illegally disparaging its competitor on the 1.8-million patient European market for high-dose intravenous iron treatments.

Vifor’s primary – and potentially sole – competitor in the European Economic Area is Pharmacosmos, a Danish specialist pharmaceutical company; Pharmacosmos’ product, Monofer, functions similarly to Vifor’s intravenous iron deficiency preparation, Ferinject.  Pharmacosmos filed a complaint with the EC, claiming that Vifor had conducted a misleading communications campaign for healthcare providers, aimed at raising doubts about the safety of Ferinject, delaying and possibly curtailing the uptake of Ferinject within the EEA.

If these allegations are proven by the Commission’s investigation, Vifor may be found to have infringed Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 54 of the EEA Agreement, which prohibit the abuse of dominant positions.  If found to have breached Article 102/Article 54, Vifor may be fined up to 10% of relevant turnover, and Pharmacosmos and anyone else harmed by the conduct may bring a claim for damages against Vifor.

The opening of a formal investigation by the Commission relieves the competition authorities of EU member states of the competence to apply EU competition rules to the conduct under investigation, and does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.  There is no fixed timescale within which an investigation must be concluded.

EC press release