Paper: Sanofi inks deal to make copycat Lipitor

Big news for the post-Lipitor statin world. Sanofi ($SNY) has struck a deal to sell a generic version of the Pfizer ($PFE) drug in France, Les Echos reports, citing sources. The arrangement would allow Sanofi's Zentiva generics unit to market copycat Lipitor before the French patent expires in May 2012, says the newspaper.

Pfizer would have an incentive to make a deal, Reuters reports. France's Strategic Council of Health Industries has a program that offers branded drugmakers a tax break if they allow a generics firm to produce and sell its own cheaper version as the patent expires.

The program is aimed at keeping drug production and jobs in France, the news service said. Eli Lilly ($LLY) made such a deal with Delpharm last year that allowed the generics maker to produce a version of its blockbuster antipsychotic drug Zyprexa.

For Sanofi, the opportunity to market knockoff Lipitor--sold under the brand name Tahor in France--would be a boon to its growing generics business. The French drugmaker has been expanding in the generics market, snapping up copycat drugmakers in emerging markets and Europe. Sanofi bought the Czech generics maker Zentiva in 2008 for $2.6 billion and united its generics operations under that brand earlier this year.

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