Recently, the European Commission (the “Commission”) announced the imposition of fines totalling €13.4 million on five pharmaceutical companies. These fines are a result of the companies’ involvement in a cartel related to an important pharmaceutical ingredient known as N-Butylbromide Scopolamine/Hyoscine (“SNBB”). SNBB serves as an important input material used to produce the abdominal antispasmodic drug Buscopan and its generic versions.
A sixth pharmaceutical company received a 100 percent reduction of the fine rate for its cartel participation by being the first to disclose the cartel to the Commission under the Commission’s leniency program. All six companies acknowledged their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case.
The Commission’s investigation revealed that these companies coordinated and agreed to fix the minimum sales price of SNBB for their customers, which included distributors and generic drug manufacturers. Additionally, these companies were involved in allocating quotas and exchanging commercially sensitive information. This infringement extended over a significant period, spanning from November 1, 2005, to September 17, 2019, within the European Economic Area.
Notably, this marks the first instance of the Commission imposing sanctions on a cartel in the pharmaceutical sector and in relation to an active pharmaceutical ingredient.
A seventh company opted not to settle and will undergo continued investigation through the standard (non-settlement) cartel procedure.
For further details regarding this case, EU & Competition law, or Healthcare & Life Sciences in general, please contact:
Malin von Heideken (Partner)
Sofia Falkner (Partner)
Timothy Mjällby (Associate)