Customs authorities in Dubai have foiled a plot to flood the market with over half a million counterfeit pills of Sanofi-Aventis’ blockbuster blood-thinner Plavix.

Around 20,000 boxes containing 556,000 fake versions of Plavix (clopidogrel) were seized, with an estimated value of around 5 million dirhams (nearly $1.4 million), at the city's Cargo Village. Ahmed Butti Ahmed, director general of Dubai Customs, told reporters at a press conference that "the design of the medicine box was so perfectly counterfeited and this is extremely dangerous", noting that “the composition of the fake drug was also totally different” from Sanofi’s compound.

Mr Ahmed went on to say that the pills, which had been shipped from Mauritius, contained cement powder and “it would have been a disaster if we had not traced it”, reports the Khaleej Times. The importers of the shipment have been detained and the case has been referred to Dubai’s public prosecuters but Mr Ahmed declined to say how many people have been arrested.

Jean-Pierre Braganti, a Sanofi executive in charge of security issues in the Gulf, was quoted as saying that the seizure showed that fake medicines existed “on a large scale” in the region. However the French ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Patrice Paoli, said the efforts of the authorities were appreciated and “it shows that Dubai is committed to protect intellectual property rights”.

Sanofi's Plavix gets priority review in Japan

Staying with Plavix and Sanofi has announced that the Japanese Ministry of

Health Labour and Welfare has granted a priority review to a supplemental new drug application for the antiplatelet drug to be used as a treatment for patients with acute coronary syndrome. The drug has been marketed in Japan since getting approval in January 2006 for secondary prevention in patients undergoing ischemic strokes.

Sanofi noted that guidelines published by the Japanese Circulation Society have expressed an interest in the early approval of Plavix for treatment of patients with ACS, so it is “recognised as a drug that can fill an important medical need”.