Sanofi: We'll sell generic Lipitor in France

AP News
Posted: Sep 01, 2011 5:14 PM
Sanofi: We'll sell generic Lipitor in France

French drugmaker Sanofi SA said Thursday that next spring it will begin selling a generic version in France of Pfizer's Lipitor, the cholesterol fighter that's the world's top-selling drug at nearly $11 billion a year.

Sanofi confirmed that its affiliate, Sanofi France, has signed a license with Pfizer to manufacture the drug, known generically as atorvastatin. The deal only allows sales within France.

Sanofi said it won't start sales until the drug's patent in France expires, on May 7, 2012.

A Pfizer spokesman noted no companies are authorized to sell generic Lipitor in France before then, but he provided no details on the deal. Sanofi likewise would not disclose the terms.

New York-based Pfizer has been selling the pills, taken daily by millions worldwide, under the brand name Tahor in France.

In the U.S., Lipitor's patent expires on Nov. 30, when two generic versions are expected to go on the market.

A so-called authorized generic will be manufactured by Pfizer and sold in the U.S. by generic drug company Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Parsippany, N.J., under an agreement that runs for five years.

The other will be sold by generic drugmaker Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. of India, under a June 2008 agreement that ended a five-year legal battle in which Ranbaxy challenged Pfizer's Lipitor patents. Under that deal Pfizer also licensed Ranbaxy to sell generic versions of Lipitor, starting on different dates, in several other countries; including Australia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The deal also gives Ranbaxy the right to sell a generic version of Caduet, a pill that combines Lipitor with now-generic blood pressure drug Norvasc, in the U.S. at the end of November.

Six months after that, other generic drugmakers are expected to begin selling their own versions of Lipitor in the U.S. The increased number of competitors should result in a big drop in price from the current level of about $160 a month.

Lipitor, which had peak global sales of about $13 billion, already has seen U.S. sales decline slowly but steadily since a similar cholesterol drug, also in the statin class, Merck & Co.'s Zocor, got generic competition in 2006. Many patients defected from Lipitor to that generic, called simvastatin, to take advantage of the lower cost.

Lipitor got generic competition in four sizable markets between May and December last year: Canada, Spain, Brazil and Mexico.

In May, Pfizer reduced its 2012 revenue forecast, to $63.5 billion, from $64.25 billion, partly because of the expected plunge in Lipitor sales. The company has been struggling to develop or acquire enough new drugs to offset the revenue that will be lost from Lipitor and some of its other drugs going generic in the next couple of years.