TRENTON, N.J. – Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Sanofi SA are restructuring their longtime partnership selling popular heart medications, now that their sales are plunging due to recent, widespread competition from generic versions.
The two drugmakers made tens of billions of dollars over the last decade or so selling Plavix, a blood thinner that was long the worlds second-best-selling drug. The companies also shared revenue from blood pressure drug Avapro and a related drug called Avalide that also includes a diuretic, or water pill.
The three medicines, among the top sellers for both companies, all got generic competition in the U.S. this spring. They already had generic rivals in other countries.
Plavix alone brought New York-based Bristol-Myers and Paris-based Sanofi a combined $9.7 billion in sales last year, according to company financial reports.
Multiple generic versions of Plavix, taken by millions of people to prevent strokes and heart attacks, arrived in U.S. drugstores May 17. Most patients quickly defected to much-cheaper generic pills, called clopidogrel.
Avapro and Avalide, known chemically as irbesartan and irbesartan/hydrochlorothiazide, generated a total of $2.62 billion in worldwide sales last year. The two blood pressure drugs got generic competition in the U.S. in March, and their sales have since declined.
The new agreement, announced last week, would return to Sanofi rights to sell the drugs in nearly all countries. Bristol-Myers would continue to sell Plavix in the U.S. through December 2019. It would receive royalties from Sanofis sales of Avapro and Avalide worldwide and from sales of Plavix in all countries except the U.S. and Japan, through 2018. At the end of 2018, Bristol is to get a payment of $200 million from Sanofi.
The agreement, which requires approval by government regulators, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
The weak global economy and pressure to reduce prices from insurers and government health programs in Europe, China and the U.S. has pharmaceutical companies scrambling to develop new drugs or acquire rights to others from other companies.