German court OKs Plavix copy

No cheers at Sanofi-Aventis or Bristol-Myers Squibb today: A German court has paved the way for an immediate launch of generic Plavix. As you know, the clot buster is a big-time seller for both companies, with worldwide revenues of $7.3 billion last year. It's the world's second-largest drug, after Lipitor. Sanofi and Bristol market Plavix worldwide and split the profits, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Two companies--Ratiopharma and Yes--were given the go-ahead to sell their versions of Plavix; the court is still deciding whether to give permission to Novartis' generics unit Sandoz. That's despite the fact that Plavix's European patents don't expire till 2012 and 2019. Apparently, the generic versions use a chemical salt that's slightly different from the original, and in Europe, doctors can treat different chemical salts of the same drug as interchangeable.

Earlier this year, German drug watchdogs cleared the copycat drugs for sale, but Sanofi lobbied to have that permission revoked, and the three generics makers went to court. This is the result. Sanofi says it will appeal.

Both Sanofi and Bristol know what it's like to suffer under generic competition for Plavix. In 2006, sales of the branded version dropped when Apotex started selling a copycat form of the drug. In June 2007, however, a U.S. court stopped those sales in their tracks, at least until the U.S. patent expires in 2011. Sales have since recovered.

- read the WSJ article