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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  November 30, 2020

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

EU plans easier access to generics in potential blow to big drugmakers.  The European Commission wants to make it easier for patients to access cheaper, generic medicines, a draft EU document seen by Reuters shows, in a move that could cut the revenues of big pharmaceutical firms.  The EU executive outlines its strategy for the sector in a document due to be published on Wednesday, with the goal of making drugs more affordable and preventing the dramatic shortages seen in the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring.  “The Commission will consider targeted policies that support greater generic and biosimilar competition,” the document says.

Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster.  The biggest book publisher in the United States is about to get bigger.  ViacomCBS has agreed to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for more than $2 billion in a deal that will create the first megapublisher.  Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the United States, is owned by the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann.  Adding Simon & Schuster, the third largest publisher, would create a book behemoth, a combination that could trigger antitrust concerns.

EU fines Teva, Cephalon over pay-for-delay drug deal.  The European Commission has fined pharmaceutical company Teva and its now subsidiary Cephalon 60.5 million euros for agreeing to delay a cheaper generic version of Cephalon’s sleep disorder medicine.  The fine is the fourth and final penalty following a series of EU antitrust investigations begun 11 years ago into “pay-for-delay” drug deals.  Previous fines in 2013 and 2014 related to a cardiovascular medicine of Servier, an anti-depressant of Lundbeck and a Johnson & Johnson painkiller.  The agreement with Teva, to delay market entry of generic drug modafinil after Cephalon’s main patents had expired, caused substantial harm to EU patients and healthcare systems, the Commission said on Thursday.

At China’s premier internet conference, few address the regulatory elephant in the room.  China’s annual World Internet Conference is usually a forum for luminaries from the country’s online giants and government bodies to discuss pressing issues of the day.  But this year, few people spoke of what is expected to be a seismic shift for the industry – plans by the central government announced just this month that aim to rein in a slew of anti-competitive behaviors.  The plans have been described by analysts as the first serious attempt on the part of Beijing’s antitrust authorities to regulate the tech companies whose services pervade Chinese daily life, particularly Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd.  But despite the presence of top officials including the head of the Cyberspace Administration of China, Zhuang Rongwen, and Liu Liehong, vice minister for industry and information, as well as executives from a raft of tech firms, the sensitive topic was barely broached in speeches and panel discussions.

Edited by Gary J. Malone

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,