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EU investigates German drug companies over possible state aid

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission opened an in-depth investigation on Wednesday into whether struggling German pharmaceutical companies have unfairly benefited from state aid.

The investigation will examine whether a German scheme, which grants companies in financial difficulties an exemption from paying rebates that pharmaceutical companies are obliged to make, is in line with EU state-aid rules.

"At this stage, the Commission considers that these derogations involve state aid, as the exemptions from the rebate have an impact on state resources," the Commission said, adding that it does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

"At this stage, the Commission has doubts that the German measure complies with the (rescuing and restructuring) guidelines, because the aid is neither limited in time nor granted on the basis of a restructuring plan."

The investigation follows a complaint by a German pharmaceutical company.

(Writing by Brussels bureau, editing by Luke Baker)

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