EU facilitates life science companies' co-operation but regulatory threats remain

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Competition law is not a barrier to life sciences businesses working together to ensure the supply of vital equipment and medicines during the coronavirus pandemic, writes Robert Vidal, partner at Pinsent Masons, in an analysis on the site.

“However, while a range of initiatives have been announced by UK and EU policymakers to enable collaboration, there are limitations to the way life sciences companies can co-operate and a continued threat of regulatory action if they act beyond the restrictions,” he notes.

“The European Commission published a communication this month for assessing current competition law issues. The communication has re-introduced the ‘comfort letter’ system which was previously abolished in 2003,” he explains. “This will allow companies, who intend to co-operate with a competitor, but are unsure about complying with applicable competition law while doing so, to directly, and pre-emptively, approach the commission for guidance, in order to attain greater legal certainty,” he states.

“The commission has already provided a comfort letter to Medicines for Europe, addressing a voluntary co-operation project among pharmaceutical producers which targets the potential shortage of critical hospital medicines for the treatment of coronavirus patients,” notes Vidal. “This decision is a particularly helpful solution given the inherent legal uncertainty arising from different forms of collaboration between potential competitors,” he opines.

“The commission has already set up a dedicated web page and mailbox that can be used to seek informal guidance on specific initiatives,” he says, adding: “Further guidance from the European Commission may also be forthcoming.”

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