EU regulators clear Pfizer's Hospira buyout, with conditions

Pfizer said Tuesday that the European Commission approved its pending $17-billion acquisition of Hospira provided it sells certain assets. Ian Read, chief executive at Pfizer, stated "we continue to work cooperatively with the regulatory agencies to obtain the requisite approvals, and continue to expect the transaction to close in the second half of 2015."

Specifically, the EU requires that Pfizer divest some sterile injectable drugs due to possible competition concerns, as well as its biosimilar version of Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co.'s Remicade (infliximab) that is currently under development. Hospira launched its own follow-on version of the drug in major European markets earlier this year under the name Inflectra.

According to the Commission, Pfizer would have likely delayed or discontinued developing its Remicade biosimilar after the merger in favour of Hospira's product, or it might have decided to return rights to that product to Celltrion, which currently co-markets the drug with Hospira in Europe, "leading to the loss of current price competition between Hospira and Celltrion." Meanwhile, Pfizer will be allowed to retain marketing rights to its Remicade biosimilar outside the EU.

Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner in charge of competition policy, commented that "this is not just about keeping prices low for patients and healthcare services." She said "we have also made sure that the merger of Pfizer/Hospira does not stand in the way of the R&D of medication that could have huge benefits for society."

In June, the Competition Commission of India granted clearance to Pfizer's acquisition of Hospira after concluding that the transaction was unlikely to affect competition in the country. Meanwhile, the US Federal Trade Commission has requested additional information from Pfizer regarding the proposed merger.

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