Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are fighting settlements between big pharmaceutical companies and generic firms that delay marketing of cheap versions of brand-name drugs.
But don't write off the chances of Big Pharma, which has already shown impressive clout in both the legal and political arenas.
The settlements are reached after generic companies indicate they plan to bring out cheaper copies of brand-name drugs, and the drugs' makers accuse the generics of infringement.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission says the settlements are illegal if generic entrances are delayed in exchange for payment, but drug companies say the deals are no more than settlements of what could be expensive litigation.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said this week that she was determined to oppose such settlements, which she said had pushed up European consumers' bills by 20 percent between 2000 and 2007. The FTC puts the cost for U.S. consumers and insurers at an additional $3.5 billion a year.
Drug companies say the settlements can save consumers money by bringing generics to market before patents expire, while eliminating the uncertainties of court trials.
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