European Commission opens investigation into Vifor for potentially disparaging a competitor
As the European Commission looks to strengthen the pharma sector’s competitiveness, the commission is also cracking down on the sector in new ways.
The commission on Monday opened a formal antitrust investigation into Swiss-based Vifor Pharma to see if the company has restricted competition by illegally disparaging its closest and potentially its only competitor in Europe, the Danish pharma company Pharmacosmos and its drug to combat iron deficiency Monofer.
The commission said that Vifor Pharma, which Australia’s CSL agreed to pay $11.7 billion in 2021 to acquire, appeared to be hindering the uptake of Monofer as it competes against its own intravenous iron treatment dubbed Ferinject.
The EC has indicated that, for several years, Vifor Pharma may have been disparaging Monofer by spreading misleading information regarding its safety, primarily targeting healthcare professionals, which may have hindered Monofer’s uptake in Europe.
“Competition in the pharmaceutical sector is important. It provides access to affordable and innovative medicines to patients. The dissemination of misleading information regarding the safety of Pharmacosmos’ iron deficiency treatment, Monofer, may have delayed its uptake,” said Margrethe Vestager, EVP in charge of competition policy for the EC, in a statement.
In a statement emailed to Endpoints News, Vifor Pharma acknowledged that the EC has opened the investigation into potential anti-competitive conduct with regard to Ferinject, but the opening of a formal investigation does not mean that any wrongdoing on their part has been established. Vifor also said they are fully cooperating and are convinced that they have not engaged in any anti-competitive behavior.
“As a global pharmaceutical company, we support both fair competition and transparent scientific information. As this is an ongoing investigation and discussions with the (EC) are continuing, we are not in a position to comment further at this time,” Vifor said.
Pharmacosmos added in a statement that the spreading of misleading information regarding Monofer’s safety may have unduly hindered Monofer’s uptake in the EEA, where approximately 1.8 million patients annually are being treated with high-dose intravenous iron products.
“This alleged abuse would ultimately harm patients by stifling competition from an innovative medicine. Pharmacosmos, as the complainant, welcomes the (ECs) decision to open an in-depth and prioritized investigation into the alleged anticompetitive disparagement,” the statement said.
The move to iron-based medicines has been a major shift for Pharmacosmos. In 2021, the company dropped $225 million to purchase AbFero, a spinout from Raymond Bergeron’s lab at the University of Florida, to acquire its lead candidate that could be used as a treatment for transfusional iron overload.