Call it generic Whac-a-Mole. Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb have bludgeoned copycat Plavix in the U.S., but competition is now popping up in Europe. Swiss drugmaker Schweizerhall Holding said it's expecting approval to sell generic Plavix in Germany and Luxembourg and plans to launch--with the help of one or two large partners--during the second quarter. And it's applying for marketing approval in other European countries, too.
Pointing out that Plavix's European patents don't expire till 2012 and 2019, analysts said Schweizerhall probably has formulated a version of the anti-clotting drug that's slightly different from the branded drug. Other analysts expressed "complete surprise" at the announcement, saying copycat Plavix would "seriously hit" Sanofi. The French drugmaker's shares fell almost 5 percent on the news.
And who might those partners be? In the past, Schweizerhall has worked with Sandoz (Novartis' generics arm) and Ratiopharm of Germany, the Wall Street Journal noted; neither company was available for comment. For its part, Sanofi says it will vigorously defend its patent. Company officials must be thinking it's deja vu all over again.