Merck ordered to license antibiotic production to rival in Italy UPDATE
06.21.2005, 10:59 AM
MILAN (AFX) - The Italian antitrust authority said it ordered Merck & Co Inc to license production of an antibiotic to another producer in Italy for export sales.
In February, the authority launched an inquiry into Merck's refusal to grant a licence for Italian production of imipenem cilastatina, the active ingredient in its Tienam product, to a rival for sales in European countries where Merck's patent has already expired, it said.
'Merck is holder in Italy of a monopoly right that gives it the exclusive right to sell Tienam, an antibiotic aimed at treating particularly serious infections, above all in hospitals,' it said.
'The authority has decided that Merck should allow, via award of a licence, the production and stocking in Italy of the main ingredient imipenem cilastatina,' it said.
This would allow other chemical companies with Italian plants to be ready, when the inquiry is closed, to export the antibiotic to European countries where Merck's patent has expired.
These exports would come before the arrival on these markets of generic products in competition with Merck's Tienam, it said, saying that this decision is an application of EU antitrust rules.
In details from the full decision, the authority said its investigation follows the denial of a request for a licence from Italian firm ACS Dobfar SpA, which has 270 mln eur annual sales.
Under Italian law, Dobfar filed a request with the industry ministry in November 2002 to obtain a licence to produce the Merck-patented product.
In 2004, during talks between the companies, Merck told Dobfar it did not want to licence the ingredient because of the need for know-how to produce it, and worries on low quality production.