BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union regulators warned Tuesday they are investigating whether major drug makers broke antitrust rules by paying off rivals to delay them from making cheaper, generic versions of medicines after exclusive patents ended.
The European Commission did not name the companies it is looking at.
It said it had asked several pharmaceutical companies to hand over copies of patent settlement deals with generic drug makers made in Europe between July 2008 and December 2009 and that it needed to monitor such deals to see if they harm competition.
Regulators said that some patent settlements could harm customers by depriving them of a wide choice of medicines at lower prices.
The EU executive said last year that generic drugs are on average 40 percent cheaper than their branded rivals two years after they launch and that it knew of some 200 deals between generic and brand-name drug makers that could restrict the rollout of generic versions.
Earlier this month the EU said it suspected Danish company Lundbeck of delaying the launch of a generic version of the antidepressant drug citalopram that it developed and sells as Celexa in the U.S. and as Cipramil in Europe.