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EU's Almunia says Lundbeck, Servier decisions next year

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators will decide next year whether to fine Danish drugmaker Lundbeck and French peer Servier for blocking the entry of cheaper generic medicines into the market, the EU's antitrust chief said on Monday.

In July, the European Commission charged the two companies and 13 other competitors with illegal "pay-for-delay" deals where brand-name companies pay generic firms to abstain from putting their rival drugs on the market.

"We are concerned that these companies misused their patents to keep markets closed to cheap generic medicines," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia EU lawmakers at a hearing.

"I hope that the decisions we will adopt - hopefully in 2013 - will change current practices by some players in the industry that leave a lot to be desired," he said.

The companies can be fined up to 10 percent of their global turnover if found guilty of breaching EU rules.

Lundbeck's deals were with German drugmaker Merck KGaA, Generics UK, Arrow, Resolution Chemicals, Xellia Pharmaceuticals, Alpharma, A.L. Industrier and Ranbaxy.

The Commission said Servier's case involved Israel's Teva, Niche, which is a subsidiary of Unichem, Matrix, which is now known as Mylan Laboratories Limited, Krka and Lupin.

The EU watchdog's move against pay-for-delay deals came after a high-profile sector enquiry in 2009 concluded that the agreements cost consumers millions of euros annually. U.S. regulators are also looking into such agreements.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Cowell)

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