AstraZeneca v European Commission: Case C-457/10 P

Introduction -

On 6 December 2012, the European Court of Justice (the “ECJ”) upheld the judgment of the General Court (“GC”), which found that AstraZeneca (“AZ”) abused its dominant position on the market for proton pump inhibitors (“PPIs”) by misleading patent authorities and misusing the regulatory system in order to prevent generic competition against its anti-ulcer medicine, Losec (omeprazole), in certain markets. The ECJ also rejected two cross-appeals brought by the European Commission (“Commission”) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (“EFPIA”).

Despite not changing the outcome of the case (or the EUR 52.5 million fine on AZ), the judgment contains some interesting statements of law which may have wider relevance beyond the pharmaceutical sector. The ECJ’s comments appear to limit the scope of the case in terms of precedent value for the pharma sector, confining it to relatively narrow facts. This may have a positive impact in removing uncertainty and thus helping to ensure continued innovation and dynamic competition in pharmaceuticals and related sectors.

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