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The UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has accused GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) of paying rivals to delay their cheaper generic versions of its anti-depression drug Seroxat from entering the UK market.

The OFT last week said GSK is guilty of market "abuse" for paying money to Alpharma, Generics UK and Norton Healthcare for them to not release their generic drugs in to the UK market, according to the BBC.

GSK deny the allegations and say they acted within the law.

The pharmaceutical giant in a statement said; "In fact, these arrangements actually resulted in generic versions of paroxetine [Seroxat] entering the market before GSK’s patents had expired."

The company also said that the OFT investigation covers matters that have already been investigated by the European Commission in 2005-2006, and that the Commission had already announced that it formally concluded its enquiry with no further action necessary.

GSK accused the generic drug makers, who were trying to enter their version of GSK’s Seroxat – aka paroxetine – onto the market, of infringing its patent. To resolve to suit GSK in effect paid the companies to keep their generic drugs off the market, according to the OFT.

GSK say these supply agreements were terminated in 2004.

However, if the allegations are proven GSK and all parties would have infringed the competition law and, additionally, GSK would have abused its dominant place in the market.

"The introduction of generic medicines can lead to strong competition on price, which can drive savings for the NHS, to the benefit of patients and, ultimately, taxpayers," Ann Pope, senior director of services, infrastructure and public markets at the OFT, told the BBC website.

"It is therefore particularly important that the OFT fully investigates concerns that independent generic entry may have been delayed in this case," Pope added.

The firms have been asked to respond to the allegations before the OFT can make a final decision on the case.

Image: GSK’s world headquarters in Brentford, UK. Photo: Courtesy of Maxwell Hamilton.