Sanofi-Aventis’ long running dispute with Apotex continued yesterday when the French company sued Apotex for patent infringement of the anticancer blockbuster Taxotere (docetaxel).

The move comes a year after Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb won a patent case against Apotex over “blood-thinning” drug Plavix (clopidogrel bisulphate).

Sanofi-Aventis spokesman Geoffory Bessaud told PharmaTimes the French company filed a lawsuit in the US against the Canadian company on Friday following knowledge of an infringement of two patents.

“Obviously we are working to protect our rights,” he said.

The action automatically triggers a 30-month stay period where Sanofi-Aventis will be protected from a generics launch until the end of 2010. The patent for Taxotere, one of the top selling anti-cancer drugs available, is due to expire in Europe and the US in 2010, but the drug has extra patent protection until 2013.

According to a recent IMS Health report, sales of cancer drugs are expected to increase up to 15% over the next few years and could reach $80 billion by 2012, making them desirable targets for generics companies.
Taxotere is profiting greatly from its clinical success and is now approved for the treatment of five different cancer types – breast, lung, prostate, gastric, and head and neck cancers – in both Europe and the US. Last year, the drug turned over €1.874 billion.

Sanofi-Aventis and Apotex have had a long running history, where in 2006 the pair became embroiled in a battle over the anti-blood clotting drug Plavix. Sanofi-Aventis won the case and retained patent protection over the drug until November 2011.

Apotex was unavailable for comment yesterday.