Sanofi-Aventis has posted a strong set of figures for the second quarter this morning and says it has laid the groundwork to cope with patent expiries.

The French drugmaker posted adjusted net income of 2.27 billion euros, a rise of 29.4% or 1.74 euros per share (+29.9%). Sales were up 11.2% to 7.44 billion euros, helped by the positive impact of currency and the contribution of recent acquisitions.

Sanofi’s biggest-seller was the diabetes treatment Lantus (insulin glargine), which enjoyed a rise of 26.0% to 792 million euros. Recent published data linked the drug to cancer but chief executive Chris Viehbacher says that “very quickly we realised that these were studies of poor quality and that really were making assertions…that were not at all justified”. Experts and regulatory agencies have come out in support of Lantus and Sanofi is sticking by its forecast that sales will double in the next five years.

Turnover of the antithrombotic Lovenox (enoxaparin) was up 13.3% to 780 million euros, while the cancer drug Taxotere (docetaxel) was up 10.7% to 584 million euros, The bloodthinner Plavix (clopidogrel), partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb, brought in 704 million euros to Sanofi’s coffers, up 4.7%, though sales were down 3.2% in Europe due to the introduction of generic competiton in the monotherapy segment in Germany.

The antihypertensive Aprovel (irbesartan) slipped 0.6% to 306 million euros, while the colorectal cancer drug Eloxatin (oxaliplatin) declined 4.3% to 353 million euros, due to generic competition in Europe. Sanofi’s vaccines division contributed 712 million euros, down 0.8%, the over-the-counter business brought in 311 million euros (+23.1%) and generics revenues more than tripled to 284 million euros.


Two R&D projects pulled
On the research front, Sanofi said it had terminated late-stage development of xaliproden in the prevention of severe peripheral sensory neuropathy induced by oxaliplatin in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. It has also decided to pull AVE1625, a cannabinoid CB1 inhibitor for schizophrenia, following a recent interim analysis of a Phase II study.

Sanofi is looking to achieve cost savings of 2 billion euros by 2013 and these, as well as continuing growth for vaccines, OTCs, Lantus, the recently-approved cardiovascular drug Multaq (dronedarone) and an increasing presence in the emerging markets, should result in earnings and sales level similar to that in 2008, ie net profits of 7.2 billion euros and turnover of 27.6 billion euros. For full-year 2009, its adjusted earnings per share guidance has been raised to 10% at constant exchange rates from at least 7%.

Mr Viehbacher said that “yes, we will lose major products like Plavix and Taxotere when generics arrive. But we also have a number of very core fundamental businesses that can double over the next five years”.

Sanofi has made a host of acquisitions of late, such as the Brazilian drugmaker Medley as well as Mexican generics group Laboratorios Kendrick, and earlier this week took control of Indian vaccines specialist Shantha Biotechnics. On Friday the company will acquire generics maker Helvepharm from Swiss health care group Von Rose, a Sanofi spokesman told PharmaTimes World News.

Firm will not ‘sanofise’ innovative biotech buys
The Paris-headquartered firm also acquired the US oncology specialist BiPar Sciences in April, and deals with Exelixis, Kyowa Hakko Kirin and the Salk Institute. Regarding the BiPar deal, Mr Viehbacher said “we didn’t want to, as we like to say sometimes, ‘sanofise’ the company..so we’ve found a demand-driven integration”, where partners can decide which parts of the Sanofi organisation they want to work with without being “submerged by the size of a big pharma organisation”.

He added that “people like this model” as biotechs have “always been afraid of being submerged by big pharma”. Mr Viehbacher added that “we’ve got a pipeline of contacts that we’re looking at, and I would suggest that what we’ve done in the first six months is just the beginning. You’re going to see more of this going forward”.

He concluded by saying that Sanofi has already received big orders from the USA and France for H1N1 swine flu vaccine and was in discussion with some 30 other countries. “Exactly how much we can produce nobody really knows”, he said, but "at the moment, we don't think the H1N1 sales will necessarily be that significant this year”.