Mexico watchdog finds big pharma faces no competition on some drugs

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[August 10, 2017] By Stefanie Eschenbacher

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Major drugmakers including GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Pfizer Inc face no competition in Mexico from generics that are readily available elsewhere, partly because of regulatory failings, Mexico's antitrust body said on Wednesday.

The companies have done nothing illegal, Juan Manuel Espino, Cofece's director of economic studies, said at a presentation of the body's probe into the Mexican drugs market, which found a lack of promotion for generics led to limited competition.

The report, released by Cofece on Wednesday, also said some of the companies used unspecified legal strategies to extend drug exclusivity after patents expire. It recommended the government tighten rules on issuing secondary patents and actively promote generic alternatives.

Cofece also said the sector might suffer from uncompetitive practices such as "pay-for-delay" arrangements, under which patent holders pay alleged infringers to not challenge patents.

Generics were much slower to penetrate the Mexican market after patents expired on brand name drugs than in Canada and the United States, the report said.

According to a document seen by Reuters, Cofece also identified other pharmaceutical companies with products facing no competition, including Sanofi SA, AstraZeneca Plc, Merck & Co Inc, Novartis AG, Janssen-Cilag SA, Abbott Laboratories, Roche Holdings AG and Eli Lilly and Co.

Resolving the situation could save Mexican consumers 2.5 billion pesos ($139 million) a year, Cofece said.

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"The cost of medicines for Mexican families is onerous," Cofece President Alejandra Palacios said at the event in Mexico City.

A Janssen-Cilag SA spokesperson declined to comment until the company had a chance to read the report. Glaxosmithkline and Pfizer referred Reuters to Asociación Mexicana de Industrias de Investigación Farmacéutica (AMMIF), a business chamber.

AMIIF said it was still studying the report and had no immediate comment. None of the other firms identified by Cofece immediately responded to requests for comment.

($1 = 17.9630 Mexican pesos)

(Additional reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang)

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