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Roche fixed vitamin prices in Switzerland

The Swiss competition authorities have ruled that an international cartel including the Basel-based pharmaceutical company, Roche, fixed the price of vitamins in Switzerland.

The Swiss competition authorities have ruled that an international cartel including the Basel-based pharmaceutical company, Roche, fixed the price of vitamins in Switzerland. It follows an inquiry launched by the Competition Commission in June last year.

Roche, Rhône-Poulenc of France and Germany's BASF have already paid hundreds of millions of dollars in financial penalties in Canada, the United States and the European Union.

Last November, Roche agreed to pay more than $600 million as part of a $1 billion settlement in the US with bulk buyers of vitamins. Roche was the major player in the price-fixing scheme, involving six other companies.

Earlier in 1999, the US justice department fined Roche a record $500 million for anti-trust violations.

However, Switzerland's Competition Commision cannot fine either the Basel-based group or the two other companies involved in the Swiss scam. The commission is empowered only to signal the existence of a cartel.

For their part, the pharmacuetical companies have issued an apology, promising not to re-engage in any price-fixing activities.

A panel of experts set up by the economics ministry is currently reviewing Swiss law on cartels. On the agenda is the possibility of introducing financial sanctions.

swissinfo with agencies

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