The EU will press pharmaceutical companies to clarify patent settlements in order to reduce delays to cheaper, generic versions coming to market.

Although the EU has not specified any particular companies, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis and Roche have all been contacted.

The action is the latest in a series of EU crackdowns following the results of a 2009 patents enquiry that pointed towards possible anti-competitive practices, posing risks for European consumers.

“Patent settlements are an area of particular concern because they may delay the market entry of generic medicines,” said Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. “The outcome of our first monitoring exercise showed that potentially problematic agreements had decreased significantly.”