Global Processing

Sanofi hit by generic Plavix threat in Europe

May 12, 2008
According to Reuters, French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis, which briefly encountered generic competition to its second-biggest product Plavix in the United States in 2006 and 2007, now faces a similar threat in Europe.

Schweizerhall, a Swiss generic drug company, said recently it was close to winning approval for a generic version of the blood-thinning drug in Germany and Luxembourg. It hopes to launch the cut-price generic medicine before the end of June.

The news sent shares in Sanofi, the world''s third-largest drugmaker by sales, down 5.9 percent to 47.50 euros by 8:20 a.m. EDT, making them the biggest blue-chip loser in Europe, with trading volume well above the stock''s average.

Schweizerhall shares jumped 8.5 percent to 193 Swiss francs.

Sanofi''s blockbuster medicine is protected by patents until 2013. But Schweizerhall said it was close to launching a generic version despite this.

The Basel-based company expects approval shortly from German regulators for its version of clopidogrel, as Plavix is known generically, and it plans to launch the drug throughout the European Union in cooperation with marketing partners.

Generic clopidogrel could also win marketing authorization in Luxembourg in the second quarter of 2008, it added.

Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Leuchten said Schweizerhall may have got around the patent issue by developing a different chemical salt of clopidogrel, which would mean its product was not exactly the same as Plavix.

Schweizerhall Chairman Luzi von Bidder declined to confirm or deny this.

Sanofi said in a statement it was evaluating its legal and regulatory options but would vigorously defend its intellectual property rights, including patent protection, in Germany.

The new generic drug was developed by Cimex, a specialty generics business of Schweizerhall.