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Sanofi-Aventis growth stifled by Plavix and price cuts

Published on 15/02/07 at 11:45am

Figures show that Sanofi-Aventis continued to grow in 2006, despite its complaints about pressure in the US from generic manufacturers and price cuts in key European markets.

The France-based company's latest full-year results show pharmaceutical sales up 2.5% to €25.8 billion, with a 6.2% rise in the fourth quarter to €6.5 billion. Sales of its top 15 products, which include Plavix, Lovenox, Stilnox and Taxotere accounted for two-thirds of annual sales (€17.3 billion).

However, in the final quarter, the company suffered a 61% drop in US sales of the blood thinner Plavix, which it markets there with Bristol-Myers Squibb, because of competition from generics manufacturer Apotex.

Last year, Sanofi-Aventis had told investors that total US demand for the drug, in both its branded and generic forms, was up year-on-year by 14% in the third quarter, yet demand for Plavix fell 32% over the same period - although in spite of this, fourth quarter sales in the US still reached €273 million.

Chief executive Gerald Le Fur refused to comment on the possibility of a takeover bid for BMS, but Sanofi remains the most likely to make a move for the weakened company.

The biggest deterrent for any would-be buyers are BMS' outstanding legal issues over the Plavix case, which could take many months to be resolved.

Sanofi, itself, also faces a fight against a court ruling invalidating the US patent on its blood thinner Lovenox. But the drug remains its best-seller, with sales of €2.4 billion worldwide, up 12.9% on the previous year.

The company said healthcare reforms have led to public spending restrictions in France and Germany, although it said there are no plans for further job cuts after the redundancies in the US and Europe last year.

The group is putting a brave face on the future, predicting growth for 2007, despite facing the end of protection for Ambien IR in the US in April and generic competition for Eloxatin in Europe. But it suffered a setback this week when US regulators ruled that a decision on its much-heralded obesity treatment Acomplia would be delayed for three months.

Sanofi's pipeline includes 46 projects currently in phase IIb or phase III compared to 35 at the same time last year. Tirapazamine, for head and neck cancer, was one of two discontinued projects.


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