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    • 04/06/2020
    • Articles

    Europe - Four-Country Inclusive Vaccine Alliance In Quest for Covid-19 Vaccine

    In a letter to Parliament and a press release (see, attachments), the Dutch Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports, Hugo de Jonge, revealed on 3 June 2020 an initiative of Italy, France, Germany and The Netherlands to work together to secure a Covid-19 vaccine for “the European Union and other countries”.   According to the Minister, the “Inclusive Vaccine Alliance” (IVA) is in talks with several pharmaceutical companies regarding promising ventures and in the process hopes to establish a European manufacturing base for the vaccine. The IVA’s ultimate goal is to create a medicine that is “accessible, available and affordable”.   Other countries will be given the opportunity to join the IVA which is also in contact with the European Commission.

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    • 03/06/2020
    • Articles

    European Commission Publishes Roadmap Towards Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe

    The European Commission (the Commission) published on 2 June 2020 its roadmap towards a Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe (PSE) which it plans to publish in the fourth quarter of 2020 (see, attachment). The roadmap defines the steps which the Commission will take prior to adopting the PSE and the data which it will assemble to inform its PSE. While the Commission will consult a range of stakeholders, it has already announced a public consultation which will run until 7 July 2020.

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    • 02/06/2020
    • Articles

    Italian Competition Authority Approves Scheme for Distribution of Surgical Masks

    On 1 June 2020, the Italian competition authority (“L’Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato”) authorised a scheme that would allow disposable surgical masks to be distributed and sold in pharmacies and health product retail outlets (see, attached press release). It did so at the request of the two principal Italian associations of pharmaceutical wholesalers. Under the scheme, the wholesalers and associations of pharmacists and health product retailers acquire the masks in a joint procurement procedure. The masks are then allocated among the wholesalers at a uniform price per unit that was agreed upon with the suppliers. The scheme will last until 30 June 2020. The competition authority approved the scheme because it solves an urgent and wide-ranging health problem and is limited in time. It thus applied for the first time the principles of its guidance of 22 April 2020 regarding cooperation agreements designed to ensure the distribution of scarce essential goods and services, including health products and food. The competition authority’s approach is in line with the views expressed by the European Commission and competition authorities around Europe to address the problems resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic (see e.g., Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert of 9 April 2020 and of 26 May 2020). Not coincidentally, the competition authority indicates that it obtained counsel from the European Commission.

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    • 29/05/2020
    • Articles

    European Commission Presents EU4Health Programme

    On 28 May 2020 the European Commission (the Commission) presented details of its new, stand-alone EU4Health Programme, a proposal to commit considerable EU resources to health during the 2021-2027 period (EU4Health). The budget which the Commission proposes to earmark for EU4Health, EUR 9.4 billion, reflects a more than 20-fold increase over the funds previously dedicated to this policy area (EUR 413 million). The Commission first made its plan public as part of the presentation of ‘Next Generation EU’, a EURO 750 billion recovery plan to be embedded in and added to the long term overall EU budget for the 2021-2027 period (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert, 28 May 2020).

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    • 28/05/2020
    • Newsletters

    VBB on Competition Law, Volume 2020, No. 5

    The May 2020 issue of our newsletter, VBB on Competition Law, which covers major developments in competition law at both the European Union and Member State levels.

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    • 28/05/2020
    • Articles

    Next Generation EU - European Commission Proposes Significant Funding and Expanded EU Health Programme

    The European Commission (the Commission) published on 27 May 2020 its proposal for a major recovery plan and put forward a new EUR 750 billion recovery instrument called ‘Next Generation EU’ that would be embedded in and added to the long term EU budget (itself worth some EUR 1,100 billion between 2021 and 2027). The money from Next Generation EU would be available to the Member States in the form of both grants (EUR 500 billion) and loans (EUR 250 billion). The focus of the recovery plan is the green and digital transition but the plan also has a substantial health component, at times intertwined with green and digital aspects.

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    • 26/05/2020
    • Articles

    Dutch Competition Authority Supports Cooperation in Distributing Essential Medicines

    The Dutch competition authority, Autoriteit Consument en Markt (ACM), published a statement indicating that it supports the cooperation between hospitals, hospital pharmacies and pharmaceutical wholesalers to reduce or avert shortages of 14 essential medicines for which demand during the Covid-19 crisis has soared (see, attachment). ACM took the position in response to a request made by Landelijk Coördinatiecentrum Geneesmiddelen (LCG), an organisation established in April 2020 to secure supplies of medicines for intensive care treatment and surgery in hospitals. LCG organises the procurement and distribution of these medicines. ACM said that it did not expect any competition problems to arise. It explained that this form of cooperation was transparent, temporary and necessary to prevent both national and local medicine shortages. It added that the measures adopted by LCG did not extend beyond what is necessary to achieve this goal. ACM also pointed out that safeguards had been put in place to avoid the exchange of information among wholesalers regarding prices or stocks. The ACM’s position is in line with that taken by other competition authorities around Europe to make sure that supplies of essential goods such as medicines and foodstuffs would not be curtailed (see e.g., Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alerts of 9 April 2020 and 29 April 2020).

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    • 22/05/2020
    • Articles

    Portuguese Competition Authority Warns Association of Pharmacists to Comply With Competition Rules During Covid-19 Crisis

    The “Autoridade da Concorrência” (the AC), the Portuguese competition authority, published on 21 May 2020 a warning for professional associations, including the national association of pharmacies (Associação Nacional das Farmácias or ANF), that they should observe the competition rules, even during the Covid-19 crisis (see, attached press release in Portuguese and English versions). The warning also targeted associations in the financial sector. The message of the AC echoes that conveyed lately by many other competition authorities and indeed the European Competition Network of competition authorities (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences News Alert of 24 March 2020). These authorities all wish to countenance limited and temporary forms of cooperation by firms that face exceptional circumstances, but will remain tough on egregious forms of collusive or abusive behaviour. In striking a similar balance, the AC would nonetheless seem to be more intent on making sure that Covid-19 is not turned into a pretext for anticompetitive conduct. For example, AC stresses that professional associations should not impinge on the commercial freedom of their members and should not allow members to exchange sensitive commercial information. The AC says it stands ready to offer informal guidance and specifies that it counseled ANF regarding the maximum margin to be applied to sales of personal protective equipment which was later made subject to regulation.

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    • 22/05/2020
    • Newsletters

    VBB on Belgian Business Law, Volume 2020, No. 4

    The April 2020 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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