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Generic Version of Plavix Is Blocked

September 01, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi-Aventis on Thursday won a bid to stop Apotex Inc. from selling its cheaper generic version of the Plavix heart pill, the world's second-biggest-selling medicine. Bristol-Myers shares surged.

U.S. District Court Judge Sidney H. Stein in New York ruled that Bristol-Myers and Sanofi were likely to win their patent-infringement suit against Apotex and wouldn't be able to recoup losses if generic sales were allowed to continue.

"The court finds Apotex's evidence insufficiently persuasive to establish a likelihood of proving invalidity" of the companies' Plavix patent at trial, Stein wrote in a 57-page ruling.

The order, a preliminary injunction, will remain in effect until the patent suit concludes or Apotex wins an appeal. The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in January.

Bristol-Myers shares, which fell 23 cents to $21.75 in regular trading, rose $1.45, or 6.7%, to $23.20 after hours. The ruling was issued after the market close.

Stein denied the companies' request to force Apotex to recall the drugs it had sold to U.S. distributors and drugstores.

Apotex has captured more than half of U.S. prescriptions for Plavix since the Canadian drug maker began selling its copies Aug. 8, according to industry analysts.

New York-based Bristol-Myers and Paris-based Sanofi, which jointly market the blood thinner to prevent heart attacks and strokes, had U.S. Plavix sales of $3.8 billion last year.

Plavix, with worldwide revenue of $6.3 billion last year, is Bristol-Myers' top-selling drug and Sanofi's second-biggest seller.

Apotex agreed in March not to market a generic form of Plavix until 2011 in return for at least $40 million. In July, the deal was rejected by U.S. state attorneys general. Apotex opted to begin sales Aug. 8 rather than wait for a court ruling on a patent-infringement suit over the drug.

On Aug. 14, Bristol-Myers and Sanofi asked Stein to halt the sales and order Apotex to recall any medicine already sold. That was the first day the companies could make such a request under terms of the agreement they signed with Apotex in March.

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