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'Pay-for-delay' deals over drug generics unlawful - EU court adviser

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An adviser to the European Court of Justice said on Wednesday that an agreement to settle a patent dispute between a pharmaceutical company and generic competitors may harm competition.

The case relates to an agreement British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline struck with generic drug companies to pay them over 50 million pounds to delay the potential entry of independent competitors to its antidepressant Seroxat.

The opinion, which is not binding on the court but carries a significant weight, effectively upholds a penalty imposed by Britain's competition watchdog in 2016.

The watchdog fined GSK 37.6 million pounds ($49 million) over the so-called "pay-for-delay" deals struck after the patent of former blockbuster Seroxat expired in 1999.

EU's court advocate-general Juliane Kokott said such agreements "may be regarded as a restriction of competition."


(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)