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    • 02/07/2021
    • News

    EU Adequacy Decisions for EU-UK Personal Data Flows

    On 28 June 2021, the European Commission adopted two adequacy decisions for the transfer of personal data from the EU and EEA to the United Kingdom following the agreed post-Brexit transition period. The two adequacy decisions allow personal data transfers under: (i) the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); and (ii) the Law Enforcement Directive respectively. The decisions came days before the transitional agreement under the EU-UK Cooperation Agreement was set to expire on 30 June 2021 and ensure that personal data can be transferred freely from the EU/EEA to the UK for the next four years. Following its thorough assessment of the UK’s practice on the protection of personal data including rules on the access to data by public authorities, the Commission came to the decision that the UK’s data protection system continues to be based on the same rules that were applicable while the UK was still a Member State of the EU. The Commission’s decision means that the UK’s data protection standards are considered “adequate”, pursuant to Article 45 of the GDPR. Please click on the link below to read our note on the subject.

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Recent publications

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    • 29/07/2021
    • Articles

    Analysis – New Excessive Pricing Cases in the UK and NL – Major Developments or More of the Same?

    Over the past two weeks, the competition authorities for the UK (“CMA”) and the Netherlands (“ACM”) have imposed significant fines for unlawful excessive pricing of medicines, accelerating the recent trend in Europe of pharmaceutical companies facing prosecution and sanctions for significant price increases. Background On 15 July 2021, the UK CMA imposed fines of £155 million on Accord-UK (previously Auden Mckenzie / Actavis) for price increases of more than 10,000% on hydrocortisone tablets after they were de-branded and fell outside the UK NHS price regulations. The CMA also imposed additional fines of £111.5 million for cartel agreements entered into when other parties threatened to enter the market. On 20 July 2021, the NL ACM imposed fines of approximately €20 million on Leadiant Biosciences for charging higher prices on chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) after it successfully received orphan medicine status and regulatory exclusivity. On 29 July 2021, the UK CMA imposed fines of over £100 million on Advanz and its private equity owners (HgCapital and Cinven) for price increases of more than 6000% on liothyronine tablets. New Developments or More of the Same? NEW – Prosecution of excessive pricing during regulatory exclusivity. While past excessive pricing cases, as well as the two new cases in the UK, all involve products for which any patent or regulatory exclusivity had expired, the case in the Netherlands concerns the pricing of a product for which Leadiant held valid regulatory exclusivity under the orphan drugs regulations. While the Dutch competition authority took pains to emphasize that any innovation by Leadiant was minimal (as CDCA was previously available for many years), this case nevertheless represents an additional step by competition authorities, demonstrating that they are also willing to prosecute strategies involving large price increases and limited innovation. NEW - Highest ever fines. The fines issued in these cases are the highest fines ever imposed on pharmaceutical companies by the UK and Dutch competition authorities, indicating that the authorities in these countries consider such excessive pricing to be as serious an infringement as cartel conduct. NEW – Specific requirements when negotiating prices. The Dutch decision includes the legal standard the ACM expects to be met by dominant pharmaceutical companies when negotiating prices. Specifically, such companies have a responsibility of “active engagement” and to negotiate “effectively and seriously” with health insurers and other relevant public authorities, and ultimately “not to charge and collect an excessive price”. NEW - 1800% and 250% price increases allowed? In the case in the Netherlands, the price of CDCA increased from €46 to €14,000. However, only Leadiant’s last price increase (of 350% in 2017) was held to be an infringement, while Leadiant’s prior price increases of 1800% in 2009 and 250% in 2014 were not sanctioned. Potential explanations are that Leadiant was not dominant before receiving exclusivity in 2017 or that Leadiant’s prior price increases were justified by the costs it incurred to gain regulatory approval. SAME - Compliance with regulations is not an infringement, but it is also not a valid defense. The ACM does not allege that Leadiant unlawfully obtained an orphan designation for CDCA, or that the necessary price increase to cover the costs for the registration is unlawful. However, the ACM also does not appear to accept that Leadiant’s compliance with the orphan regulations and the associated “reward” of regulatory exclusivity empower Leadiant to freely set its prices in its discretion, and does not justify the last 350% price increase implemented in 2017. SAME – Comparisons with prices in other countries is also not a valid defense. Consistent with the approach of the European Commission and Italy in the Aspen case, the ACM did not appear to accept Leadiant’s argument that the list price set it the Netherlands is “the lowest in the EU” as a defense against a finding of excessive pricing. NEW – Authorities not deterred by losses in prior cases. The UK CMA’s prior high-profile case against Pfizer and Flynn for excessive pricing of phenytoin sodium capsules was annulled on appeal. Despite this high profile rebuke – with the CMA being criticised for, among other things, misapplying the legal test for excessive pricing and failing to properly evaluate evidence adduced by the parties – the CMA and ACM appear undeterred in the pursuit of cases involving significant price increases on medicines.

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    • 29/07/2021
    • Articles

    UK CMA continues crack down on excessive pricing of medicines

    On 29 July 2021, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) imposed fines totalling more than £101 million on Advanz Pharma and previous owners, Cinven and HgCapital, for charging excessive and unfair prices for liothyronine tablets – a treatment for hypothyroidism (see Press Release). In line with most recent excessive pricing cases, this new decision concerns a drastic increase in the price of a genericised medicine that could not be justified by increased costs, investments or innovation. During its investigation, the CMA uncovered Advanz’s strategy of identifying genericised medicines subject to no (or limited) competition and substantial barriers to new entry. After acquiring the rights to such medicines, Advanz would “de-brand” the medicines in order to avoid applicable price regulations. Using this strategy, Advanz Pharma was able to increase the price of liothyronine tablets by more than 6,000% between 2009 and 2017. As a result, NHS spending on liothyronine tablets increased from approximately £2.3 million in 2009 to above £30 million in 2016. Liothyronine tablets were ultimately placed on the NHS “drop list”, leaving patients with the option of either ceasing use of the treatment or having to purchase the treatment at their own expense. This new decision by the CMA follows hot on the heels of its £260 million fine on Auden Mckenzie and Actavis (now Accord-UK) for charging excessive prices and concluding anticompetitive market sharing agreements in relation to the supply of hydrocortisone tablets (for further information see our previous updates: (1) CMA fines hydrocortisone tablet suppliers over GBP 260 million; and (2) Analysis – New Excessive Pricing Cases in the UK and NL – Major Developments or More of the Same?).

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    • 23/07/2021
    • Newsletters

    VBB on Belgian Business Law, Volume 2021, No. 6

    The June 2021 issue of our Belgian Business Law newsletter reporting on the latest developments in a range of areas, including competition, data protection, intellectual property and labour law.

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