Sanofi to amp up generics push, cut R&D

The impending restructuring at Sanofi-Aventis? A strategic shift toward generics and away from in-house research. The Wall Street Journal reports that Sanofi is planning to reorganize its generics unit to expand even more in emerging markets. Meanwhile, the company will cut its losses in R&D areas that haven't borne much fruit recently, sources told the paper.

Sanofi, of course, has almost as much need to revamp as Pfizer does, what with Plavix going off patent by 2011. The clot-busting drug posted sales of $8.6 billion last year, just behind Pfizer's behemoth Lipitor. By the time Plavix falls off that looming patent cliff, Sanofi will have to cobble together enough generics deals, new products, and so on to make up the difference.

Sanofi is one of the several Big Pharmas to target both emerging markets and generics. Sanofi has snapped up a series of generics firms, some in Latin America and others in Eastern Europe, with plans to expand those firms' operations in more up-and-coming markets, where drug sales growth is expected to far outpace any increase in mature markets like the U.S. and Europe. After buying the Czech firm Zentiva, for instance, Sanofi now is plotting an assault on Russia and Turkey, as well as new European markets.

And CEO Chris Viehbacher is actively looking for more deals like Zentiva and its other recent acquisitions. "If we can find other acquisition opportunities like Zentiva elsewhere, we will do that," he told Reuters, adding that he expected to do some more deals this year. "I just can't tell you when, because I do not know when the fish is going to bite," he said.

- read the WSJ story
- get more from Reuters

ALSO: Sanofi-Aventis defended its blockbuster diabetes drug Lantus today after an analyst note raised concerns over the diabetes drug's safety, pushing the company's shares lower. Report