LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Friday that the European Union had lost a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company over the supply of COVID-19 vaccines after a Brussels court dismissed a claim by the EU for more deliveries by the end of June.
But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday’s decision supported the EU’s view that AstraZeneca – against which the bloc recently launched a second lawsuit – had failed respected its commitments.
The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant has committed to a contract to do its best to deliver 300 million doses to the bloc of 27 countries by the end of June, but production problems have led the company to revise its target to 100 million vaccines.
Supply cuts delayed the EU’s vaccination campaign in the first quarter of the year, when the bloc initially bet on AstraZeneca to deliver the largest volume of its injections. This has led to a bitter dispute and the EU legal action to obtain at least 120 million doses by the end of June.
But the judge ruled he should only deliver 80.2 million doses before the Sept. 27 deadline. The company said it would “significantly exceed” that amount by the end of June.
The court said in a statement that AstraZeneca was to deliver 15 million doses by July 26, another 20 million by August 23 and another 15 million by September 27, for a total of 50 million. doses. The EU had requested 90 million doses in the second quarter.
If the company did not meet these deadlines, it would face a penalty of “10 euros ($ 11.8) per undelivered dose,” the European Commission said. The EU had asked for a fine of 10 euros per dose per day.
AstraZeneca said other measures requested by the Commission were rejected and the court concluded that the EU had no exclusivity or priority rights over other parties with which the drug maker had contracts.
“The judgment also acknowledged that the difficulties faced by AstraZeneca in this unprecedented situation had a substantial impact on the delay,” AstraZeneca said in a statement.
“AstraZeneca now looks forward to renewed collaboration with the European Commission to help tackle the pandemic in Europe. “
The European Union last month launched a second lawsuit against the drug maker asking for financial penalties for delays in vaccine supply.
“This decision confirms the Commission’s position: AstraZeneca has not honored the commitments it made in the contract,” Commission President von der Leyen said on Friday.
The EU lawyer said the EU will analyze the situation before deciding whether to take a second court case.
Report by Francesco Guarascio and Muvija M; written by Alistair Smout; edited by David Evans
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.