The European Commission has uncovered a 'tool box' of pharmaceutical company strategies that may be delaying availability of cheaper generic alternatives to costly patented medicines.

A European Commission preliminary report published last week said some firms were filing up to 1,300 patent applications across the EU for single drugs.

It also found evidence of companies in dispute with generic companies, concluding settlement agreements that delayed the appearance of generics and even interfering in national procedures for the approval of generic medicines.

€3bn savings

The report, which does not identify companies, estimates that if generic drugs had become available without delay, EU countries could have already saved €3bn over seven years.

It says: "Although there may be other reasons for delays to generic entry, the successful implementation of these strategies may have the effect of delaying or blocking [generic drug] entry."

The report is part of a European Commission investigation into EU pharmaceuticals markets.