March 1, 2012 / 12:15 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-EU drops antitrust probe into AstraZeneca, Nycomed

* EU Commission says found no evidence of illegal deals

* Companies and others raided in November 2010

* Commission still monitoring pay-for-delay deals (Adds details, background)

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS, March 1 (Reuters) - EU regulators have dropped an investigation into Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca and Swiss peer Nycomed after failing to find evidence they tried to delay cheaper medicines entering the market.

The European Commission raided the companies and several others in November 2010 after a critical 2008 Commission report highlighted deals between major drugmakers aimed at hindering or blocking generic medicines.

The investigation into the possibility of "pay-for-delay" deals by AstraZeneca and privately owned Nycomed did not yield anything, said Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission's competition division.

"We consider no infringement could be established, simply because the evidence was not there," Colombani told a regular news briefing.

He said the regulator was still keeping a sharp eye on such deals.

"We still have ongoing investigations in the pharmaceutical sector, and we still take issues of possible hindering or delaying generics onto the market very seriously," he said.

Companies on the regulator's radar should not read too much into its decision to drop the investigation, said Morten Nissen, of law firm Bird & Bird.

"It very much depends on the facts of the case and whether they establish an infringement," he said.

Current cases in the sector involve French drugmaker Servier, Denmark's Lundbeck, Israeli drug company Teva , U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson and Swiss company Novartis and U.S. drugmaker Cephalon.

U.S. antitrust regulators are also looking into settlement deals in the industry. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Rex Merrifield)

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