As expected, Sanofi-Aventis has seen its fourth-quarter earnings take a hammering from generic competition to the antithrombotic Plavix and diabetes treatment Amaryl, but overall revenues were up despite what its head of pharmaceuticals called “a difficult year” in 2006.

Net income dropped 4.2% to 1.38 billion euros, and while overall sales were up 5% to 7.36 billion euros, any growth was overshadowed once again by the problems it has had with Plavix (clopidogrel). US sales of the drug shrank 61.5% to 273 million euros and were up just 4% in Europe to 436 million euros, hurt by declining German sales and price reductions in France.

Allegra (fexofenadine) for allergies actually rose 7.9% to 163 million euros despite generic competition, but Amaryl (glimepiride) was down 19.8% to 106 million euros. However it was not all bad news on the sales front as turnover from the blood clot drug Lovenox (enoxaparin) improved 12% to 614 million euros, though its future looks decidedly dicey after a California court invalidated the patent on the drug last week. The Stilnox/Ambien (zolpidem) sleeping pill franchise advanced 34% to 543 million euros.

The results completed a fairly miserable 24 hours for Sanofi, given that Sanofi had earlier been told by the US Food and Drug Administration that it has again delayed its review of the obesity drug Acomplia (rimonabant) and further restricted the use of its antibiotic Ketek (telithromycin). However there seem to be some bright spots on the horizon and chief executive Gerard le Fur, noted that the firm plans submit 12 New Drug Applications over the next two years. The company also refused to comment on any of the rumours linking it with Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Sanofi’s pipeline now includes 46 products in Phase IIb and final-stage trials. However two oncology projects have been discontinued – tirapazamine in head and neck cancer and SR31747 in prostate cancer. However, the experimental antidepressant saredutant has reported statistically significant results in two Phase III studies (but two others were not) and the firm also has high hopes for another medicine for amibegron, which is being studied in 11 Phase III for depression and anxiety. Results are expected in the second half of 2007.

However analysts were not overly impressed and UBS noted that “the development pipeline update offers little in the way of positive news." The broker also noted that Sanofi’s implied earnings guidance of 2.9% for 2007, after currency adjustment, was disappointing.