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High pharmaceutical pricing practices in Europe have been increasingly on the radar of the European Union, academia and civil society as a risk to Member State health budgets. It is therefore hardly surprising that, in recent years, competition authorities have resuscitated the excessive pricing prohibition contained in Article 102(a) TFEU. Focusing on this phenomenon, this piece highlights the diverse ways in which the United Brands test has been applied in pharmaceuticals by conducting a comparative study of the decisional practice of national competition authorities. Several observations and arguments are then derived therefrom, demonstrating that, while difficult (most notably in respect to patent-protected products), competition authorities and courts have established sophisticated ways of determining whether a pharmaceutical price is excessive in the sense of Article 102(a) TFEU. These findings should encourage hesitant competition authorities and private plaintiffs to at least carry out preliminary investigations when they suspect excessive pricing in pharmaceuticals is taking place.
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