The EU fined Alkaloids of Australia, Alkaloids Corporation, Boehringer, Linnea and Transo-Pharm a total of EUR13.4 million Thursday for taking part in a cartel concerning a key pharmaceutical ingredient. C2 PHARMA was not fined as it revealed the cartel to the Commission under the leniency programme. All six companies admitted their involvement in the cartel and agreed to settle the case.

The product concerned by the cartel is N-Butylbromide Scopolamine/ Hyoscine (‘SNBB’). SNBB is an important input material to produce the abdominal antispasmodic drug Buscopan and its generic versions. The Commission’s investigation revealed that the six companies coordinated and agreed to fix the minimum sales price of SNBB to customers (i.e., distributors and generic drug manufacturers) and to allocate quotas. In addition, the companies exchanged commercially sensitive information.

The Commission’s investigation revealed the existence of a single and continuous infringement in the European Economic Area (‘EEA’), spanning from 1 November 2005 to 17 September 2019. The participants were either producers or distributors of SNBB. The following table details the duration of each company’s involvement in the infringement:

Company                                Start                                    End

Alkaloids of Australia           1 November 2005            17 September 2019

Alkaloids Corporation          1 November 2005            17 September 2019

Boehringer                              1 November 2005            31 December 2014

C2 PHARMA                          22 January 2015               4 February 2016

Linnea                                      2 October 2006                17 September 2019

Transo-Pharm                        21 June 2011                     17 September 2019

This is the first time that the Commission sanctions a cartel in the pharmaceutical sector and in relation to an active pharmaceutical ingredient. The Commission cooperated and coordinated certain investigative activities with the Swiss and Australian competition authorities. In the context of this investigation, the Commission opened proceedings against a seventh company, Alchem, which decided not to settle. Alchem is not covered by this settlement decision and therefore the investigation will continue under the standard (non-settlement) cartel procedure for this company.

Source: EUbusiness

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