Court upholds $442M Plavix judgment against Apotex

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Sanofi ($SNY) may finally get their money from Plavix copycat Apotex--but it won't be as much as the two companies wanted. A U.S. appeals panel upheld a trial court's $442 million judgment against the generics maker, which launched its own version of the blockbuster blood thinner in 2006, even though the drug was still on patent.

The $108 million in interest awarded by New York Judge Sidney Stein didn't survive the appeal because of a prior agreement. Because of that arrangement, the damages didn't amount to the usual penalty for an at-risk launch. Sanofi and Bristol-Myers had agreed that any award would be limited to half of Apotex's Plavix sales.

The court battle among the three drugmakers has been going on since 2002. Their patent fight erupted into Apotex's at-risk launch after a settlement deal went awry. Although the trial court ordered Apotex to stop selling its Plavix copy soon after its debut, the market was already flooded. BMS, which markets Plavix in the U.S., bore the brunt of the lost sales; Sanofi lost its share of the profits.

Sales of the branded version recovered from the competition to become the second-highest in pharma behind Pfizer's ($PFE) Lipitor. The drug's U.S. sales amounted to $6.1 billion in 2010. However, it is Plavix's last full year without generic competition in the U.S.; it goes off patent in May.

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