French authorities to investigate Sanofi

The French Competition Authority is investigating Sanofi-Aventis for anti-competitive practices following allegations it prevented the launch of generic rivals for Plavix. However, the antitrust body is rejecting a claim from the French subsidiary of generic giant Teva Pharmaceuticals to immediately sanction Sanofi.

An original complaint was made by French-based generics firm Teva Santé in November 2009, according to inPharm, alleging that Sanofi's practices were limiting the development and market access of generic versions of anti-platelet agent Plavix. Teva maintains that Sanofi doesn't remind doctors and pharmacies that the generic alternatives to its blockbuster Plavix have been approved by medical authorities, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the authority, Sanofi-Aventis' communications toward scientists and practitioners emphasize differences between Plavix and competing generics--including Clopidogrel Teva Pharma 75 mg--without revealing that these differences have no impact on the therapeutic efficacy of the product, and that the generic formulation has been fully tested and approved for use by medical authorities across Europe, Teva says in a statement.

Gerard van Odijk, CEO of Teva Europe, welcomed the authority's ruling: "We believe in a fair and open market that delivers affordable healthcare for patients and the taxpayer across Europe. The Authority's decision to investigate Sanofi-Aventis' behaviour underlines our view that such practices are likely to prevent access to competition and damage the long-term interests of patients."

"Innovator companies need to understand that they cannot use misleading practices to prevent competition from therapeutically equivalent and effective generic products. Generic medicines help make healthcare affordable, and we consider that practices aimed at stifling fair competition are unlawful," says Maurice Chagnaud, CEO of Teva Santé.

A spokesman for the antitrust body says it will provide further information on the progress of the investigation in several months, the WSJ reports.

- check out Teva's statement
- see the report from InPharm 
read the WSJ report (sub. req.)

ALSO: Brazil's antitrust regulator (CADE) has approved the purchase of local generic medicines maker Medley by France's Sanofi-Aventis SA, but will force it to sell off some of Medley's product lines first. Report